19th April 2024
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Farmers continue to protest, blocking main routes near French border

Farmers in Catalonia took to the roads once again on Tuesday to voice their grievances about the challenges facing the agricultural sector, staging blockades with tractors on motorways, including the main highway connecting Spain to southern France.

Protesters gathered on the AP-7 motorway at Pontós, approximately 40 kilometres from the French border, starting their blockade shortly after midnight on Monday, effectively halting traffic in both directions. On Tuesday morning, they had also blocked the N-II highway, throwing boxes of vegetables and fruit from trucks.

Demonstrators also blocked the Coll d’Ares border crossing, where they plan to mobilise with French farmers.

In addition to the AP-7 blockade, they also obstructed the A2 motorway, which links Madrid and Barcelona, as part of a series of protests highlighting what they perceive as unfair competition from non-EU countries.

According to a statement from Unió de Pagesos, one of the Catalan farmers’ unions involved in the protest, these products ‘do not have to meet the same criteria’ as those required by EU member states. They’re also advocating for Brussels to streamline bureaucracy.

Farmers across Europe have been expressing their discontent for weeks, citing overly restrictive environmental regulations, competition from cheap imports outside the EU, and insufficient incomes. ALSO READ: EU scraps pesticide proposal, as farmers continue to protest.

In Spain, mobilisations have been on-going since early February. Catalan farmers made a significant show of force earlier in the month with a convoy of a thousand tractors converging on Barcelona.

On Monday, thousands more farmers marched through Madrid again, following a demonstration five days earlier that saw 500 tractors descending upon the capital. ALSO READ: Farmers with convoy of 500 tractors stage protest in central Madrid.

Brussels was also paralysed by protesters on Monday, as around 900 tractors filled the streets of the European quarter, where EU ministers were meeting to address the regulations and bureaucracy fuelling protests across the bloc.

Tensions escalated as angry farmers clashed with riot police, hurling eggs, burning tyres, and spraying manure. They were met with water cannons and teargas in return.

Since the start of the protests in Spain, unions and protest organisers have met several times with Agriculture Minister Luis Planas who pledged to ask the EU to simplify its Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

He also agreed to ask Brussels to ensure mirror clauses – which ensure imports respect EU agricultural rules – are imposed on pesticides, and to improve Spain’s agri-foodchain legislation so producers are not forced to sell at a loss.

ALSO READ: Farmers in Spain stage fourth consecutive day of protests.

ALSO READ: In central Madrid and across Spain – the farmers’ protest continues.

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