PARIS — Snow-dusted tractors lined up outside the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, and nighttime protests in Romania marked by vivid national flags have become markers of a widespread farmer protest movement across Europe.
Starting in France, where farmers blocked major highways around Paris with their tractors, the days-long protests spread across the European Union, highlighting deep-seated grievances within the agricultural sector. The movement, triggered by concerns over the impact of low wages, heavy regulation and the influx of cheap imports, has seen farmers from Spain, Italy, Germany, Romania and Greece join in calling for action.
In response, French Prime Minister Gabriel Attal announced a new set of measures Thursday aimed at addressing the farmers’ concerns. Attal’s speech came as convoys with hundreds of angry farmers driving heavy-duty tractors created chaos outside the European Union’s headquarters, demanding leaders at an EU summit provide relief from rising prices and bureaucracy. It made for a dramatic spectacle, creating disruptions and bringing the disgruntled farmers’ demands directly to the heart of EU policymaking.
Meanwhile, there were traffic barricades on eight highways around Paris amid a large police presence. Attal announced that France was banning, starting immediately, imports of fruits and vegetables coming from outside the EU that have been treated with the Thiaclopride insecticide — which is currently banned in the 27-member bloc.
Attal also, among other pledges, reaffirmed that the country would remain opposed to the EU signing a free-trade deal with South America’s Mercosur trade group.