Farmer Protests Expanding in Europe, Geographically and Socially

Two leading patterns stand out in the ongoing protest wave of farmers in Europe: the tendency toward a broader revolt involving independent entrepreneurs and craftspeople as a whole, and the coordination of protests among Eastern European countries.

The first is particularly visible in Germany, judging from three public events in Nuremberg, Chemnitz and Düsseldorf at the end of last week. In Nuremberg on Feb. 15, several hundred protesters gathered in front of the Industry Chamber, which had organized an event with Economy Minister Robert Habeck. The crowd included not only farmers, brought there by the Bavarian Farmers Association BBV, but also representatives of various sectors of SMEs (Bavarian Business Association, German Hotel and Restaurant Association, Bavarian butchers’ trade and carpenters’ guild). All the groups displayed big banners calling for a change in economic policies and urging all small and middle-sized businesses to join in.

In Chemnitz (Saxony), several hundred farmers, tradespeople, restaurateurs, hauliers and other SMEs took part in a rally on Feb. 17, in support of the “Resolution of the SMEs” which is now circulating in Saxony and has already been signed by many mayors and district administrators. Its 12 points start with the demand for protection and support of SMEs in general.

A similar picture emerged in Düsseldorf (North Rhine Westphalia), at the motorcades and subsequent rally on Feb. 17. An entrepreneur who helped organize the protest, Ralf Weiss, told the protesters: “It is important that we get the attention of the people who are on the right and left of the road. We want money to flow back into the German economy and infrastructure and the renovation backlog for dilapidated schools, bridges and roads to be cleared. We can’t have large, long-established companies leaving the country to produce abroad.”

Several Eastern European countries have seen farmer protests over the past weeks. Now, a coordination is starting to take shape, with a first joint action by farmers from Poland, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Lithuania and Latvia on Feb. 22. In Poland itself, blockades of border crossings with Ukraine will continue, and be expanded as of Feb. 20 to blockades targeting transportation and shipment of Ukrainian agricultural goods at rail hubs and seaports, to be continued until March 10.

Interestingly, the EU’s “Green Deal” is becoming a leading issue of protests, that not only target the national governments but the European Commission. Farmers are demanding compensation for losses already suffered as a result of the EU open door policy to duty-free imports of grain from Ukraine.

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