Tractors roll into Paris as farmers up pressure on Macron

Tractors roll into Paris as farmers up pressure on Macron

An unusual sight
An unusual sight. Photo: MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP
Source: AFP

Farmers drove their tractors into central Paris on Friday to raise the pressure on President Emmanuel Macron, who has promised them a meeting at France's coming agriculture fair bonanza to discuss their grievances.

The Salon de l'Agriculture, opening Saturday, is the de facto deadline for angry farmers who say they want written assurances from the government meeting their demands, or they will keep up their protests.

Their complaints include what they call burdensome environmental rules and the threat of cheap imports from outside the European Union, and they also demand measures to address the low income many of them still suffer.

Prime Minister Gabriel Attal failed to placate them with a host of measures announced Wednesday, and all sights are now on Macron, who is scheduled to visit the agriculture fair as is customary for presidents on Saturday.

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On Thursday, Macron said he would hold a debate there involving "all actors in the agriculture world" to "outline the future" of the sector.

But the initiative came off to a rocky start when Macron included the radical ecology group "Soulevements de la Terre" (Uprisings of the Earth), which his own interior minister recently tried to have banned on the grounds they were "eco-terrorists".

After protests from farming unions, opposition politicians and even from within the government's ranks, the Soulevements group was quickly uninvited as Macron's office said there had been "an error".

French farmers say they are unhappy with the government's concessions so far
French farmers say they are unhappy with the government's concessions so far. Photo: MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP
Source: AFP

But the damage was done, with the head of France's biggest farming union FNSEA, Arnaud Rousseau, calling Macron's initiative "cynical" and saying he would not be part of "something that doesn't allow dialogue in good conditions".

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Even without the activists, Saturday's debate promised to be "red-blooded", predicted agriculture fair president Jean-Luc Poulain.

Macron's office said he was hoping for a debate that would be "without taboo, in a republican spirit but without filters".

Attal on Wednesday promised to elevate agriculture "to the status of a fundamental national interest", outlining an agriculture bill designed to address farmers' grievances.

But farmers have continued to block motorways and roundabouts, set fire to tyres and lay siege to supermarkets, saying they needed more.

Authorities are finding the farmers' movement "hard to control" in some parts of the country, a police source told AFP.

Around 30 tractors entered central Paris heading for Les Invalides, the military museum and esplanade a stone's throw from the French parliament and just across the river from the Elysee presidential palace.

A second convoy was expected to enter the capital later Friday.

The FNSEA acknowledged that this year's agriculture fair -- a key annual event for farmers, the public and politicians -- would be "eminently political" but said it would hopefully also be a "time of celebration".

Source: AFP

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