Anger of farmers: in Poland, peasants block crossings to Ukraine

The wave of farmers' protests continues in Europe

Anger of farmers: in Poland, peasants block crossings to Ukraine

The wave of farmers' protests continues in Europe. In Poland, farmers blocked around a hundred roads and border crossing points with Ukraine on Tuesday February 20, in particular to denounce Ukrainian agri-food imports deemed “uncontrolled”.

Dozens of tractors flocked to Ryki, 100 kilometers southeast of Warsaw, from where they set out to block the S17 expressway leading to the city of Lublin and further towards the border with Ukraine. Farmers displayed white and red flags of Poland on their vehicles, with signs proclaiming: “Stop the uncontrolled influx of Ukrainian goods” or “Agriculture is slowly dying.”

In the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the importation of Ukrainian products was favored by the European Union, leading to "unfair competition", according to European farmers. To respond to this anger, the European Commission proposed at the end of January to renew from June the exemption from customs duties enjoyed by agricultural products entering the EU, while combining it with "safeguard measures" to limit the volumes of the most sensitive products.

At the beginning of February, Polish farmers went so far as to block a truck coming from Ukraine before dumping its cargo of cereals destined for the European Union onto the road. An action which led to the opening of an investigation by the Polish prosecutor's office and critics of the Ukrainian government. “Ukrainian farmers work under constant enemy shelling and suffer huge losses. They pay dearly for their crops, sometimes with their lives,” lamented the Ukrainian Ministry of Agrarian Policy.

On Monday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the blockade of the Polish border by Polish truckers and farmers demonstrated “the erosion of solidarity” with his country.

Hundreds of Greek farmers heading to Athens

In parallel with the Polish movement, the mobilization also continues in Greece, where hundreds of farmers converged on Athens on Tuesday to demand an increase in financial aid for the sector. Escorted by the police, they hope to reach the center of Athens at the end of the afternoon and park in front of the Parliament.

The majority of farmers from the agricultural regions of mainland Greece but also from Crete (South) must arrive by bus, police told Agence France-Presse (AFP). This has taken special measures in the center of Athens, which should partly be closed off to traffic.

Farmers' discontent is fueled by the slow pace of compensation after last year's devastating fires and floods in Thessaly, the country's main agricultural production plain. They are also calling for import controls, reduced fuel taxes, better prices for their products and a relaxation of European Union environmental regulations.

After paying them between 2,000 euros and 4,000 euros last year, the Conservative government has promised additional aid of 5,000 euros to 10,000 euros this year. The Greek executive also proposed reducing farmers' energy bills over the next ten years and reducing VAT on fertilizers and animal feed from 13% to 6%. The Farmers’ Federation said it was not “satisfied with the additional measures announced by the government”.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who met last week with representatives of professional unions, called on farmers on Monday to cause "as little disruption as possible", saying that his government had "nothing more to give" to the farmers.