anger spreads to Italy and Spain

The mobilization of farmers is gaining momentum in southern Europe. A march is planned towards Rome and snail operations are increasing in the Spanish regions. Our correspondents explain this mobilization to us.


Reading time: 5 min

A Spanish farmer demonstrates, on the highway north of Barcelona, ​​with his tractor on which a sign indicates, in Catalan, "You are drowning us"February 7, 2024. (PAU BARRENA / AFP)

The farmers’ movement has calmed down in France, but continues and is beginning to take shape in other European countries. In Spain the first major demonstrations and other snail operations began this week. In Italy, a more global mobilization is being organized, farmers want to surround the capital.

Spain: towards more structured movements

In Spain, there were a series of blockages on roads, highways, access to cities or infrastructure on Tuesday. There is no official count because the actions did not respond to structured calls from established agricultural organizations, but rather to more or less spontaneous initiatives by farmers. But the Spanish media count, in the regions, dozens of “tractors”, snail operations in French. 200 tractors blocked the port of Malaga, 100 tractors cut the highway that connects Madrid to Toledo. Andalusia, a powerful growing region, was particularly affected, as was Castile and León with some 7,000 tractors mobilized, and Catalonia. On Thursday, more structured movements called by the main agricultural unions will take place.

Some of the demands of Spanish farmers are the same as those of their French counterparts, but others are specific to Spain. This is what José María Castilla, a representative of Asaja, one of the three main Spanish agricultural unions, explains. “There are complaints that are common: the requirements of the CAP, the administrative burden, the fact of legislating against farmers… But there are also Spanish demands on the infrastructure to store water, the exaggerated increases in the minimum wage or the uncertainty over rebates on diesel.
As a result, Spanish farmers are making themselves heard both in Brussels and in Madrid, where they were received at the ministry last Friday.said this unionist.

Smoothing things out with French farmers

The Spanish agricultural model has been criticized in France. Gabriel Attal spoke of unfair competition and Ségolène Royal attacked the organic sector and tomatoes. There are also French farmers who overturned Spanish trucks at the border. Spanish farmers make a distinction between politicians and their soundbites, which they firmly condemn, and French farmers, with whom they try to smooth things over. “This is a strategy of the political class to divide farmers and we did not fall for it. We responded by collaborating with the FNSEA and with the organization which brings together European agricultural unions”, explains Jose Maria Castilla. Spanish farmers say they can understand the angry reactions to the French’s difficulties but that they are subject to the same rules and cannot be used as a scapegoat.

Italy: an ultimatum issued to the government

Groups of peasants announced a march on Rome. If some have already been at the gates of the capital since Monday, from Thursday, tractors should gradually converge from all Italian regions. They will meet, beyond the Roman ring road, on private land. Their idea is “to encircle” Rome. For the moment, there is no question of blocking the roads, in any case that is the slogan transmitted on social networks. We announce 2,000 machines in the large suburbs, 500 on the ring road on Friday and a demonstration on foot, in the streets of Rome, next week. Even if some hope to be able to ride a tractor on the Roman forums and at the foot of the Colosseum.

The mobilization remains far from the scale of those in France or Germany. In Italy, the momentum comes from at least two distinct and spontaneous groups, without national coordination or support from the main agricultural unions. The movement is supported by Matteo Salvini’s far-right, but claims to be apolitical. The tractors started blocking two weeks ago, but always very locally and in scattered order. A timid mobilization, therefore in the third European agricultural power, but which seeks to be publicized. Some farmers tried to break into Sanremo, to ride a cow on the stage of the very popular music festival. A protest which in any case seems to be moving up a gear with the march on Rome launched as an ultimatum to the Meloni government.

The promise of a budget increase

In Italy, there are a host of demands against European and Italian policies which do not sufficiently promote the products and therefore the identity of Italy. The sector is however in danger, according to Salvatore Fais, one of the leaders of the protest “We are not asking for money, but to resolve the problems: taxes that are too heavy, the prices of our products, production costs… Because since Covid and the war in Ukraine, speculation has hit us hard, “We can’t get by anymore. We will end up abandoning our farms within 2-3 years.”this Tuscan breeder is alarmed.

Giorgia Meloni has not met the groups of farmers, but assures to be at their side. The sovereignist leader promises them an increase of three billion euros in the European budget dedicated to Italian agriculture and the maintenance of a tax rebate for small farms. She hopes to calm anger and perhaps limit the scale of the march on Rome.

source site-29