Polish farmers launch 30-day protest, blocking roads and Ukraine border crossings

Polish farmers have today launched a series of protests against EU climate policies and agricultural imports from Ukraine. The general strike, which is due to last 30 days, will see the farmers block roads around Poland as well as border crossings with Ukraine.

Over 250 protest actions have been announced around the country, starting from 10 a.m. local time this morning, by the farmers, who say that their “patience has run out”.

In launching the strike, the Polish farmers join a wider series of protests by their counterparts around Europe in recent weeks, including in Germany, France, Romania, Greece, Lithuania, Belgium and Latvia.

When the Solidarność farmers union announced the protest at the beginning of this month, it said that the EU’s extension of duty-free trade with Ukraine until June 2025 is “unacceptable”.

The farmers also want agriculture-related provisions of the EU’s “Green Deal”, a set of policy initiatives aimed at achieving climate neutrality by 2050, to be scrapped. They believe that imposing additional environmental requirements will lead to a reduction in agricultural production in Europe.

Poland has been rated as the EU’s least green country in a new ranking.

The EU-funded study takes into account the state of the environment, its effects on quality of life, and efforts to address climate issues https://t.co/hKyeucSzBl

— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) November 5, 2022

“The Polish government must have a clear plan for agricultural production, the profitability of production, the reconstruction of Polish processing and Polish trade. We will fight for this until it happens. Polish family farms are the basis of the country’s food security,” the trade union wrote in the statement.

At 10 a.m. tractors carrying Polish flags began blocking access roads to cities and some streets within cities, including in Poznań, Wrocław, Katowice, Białystok and Kraków. Some carried banners that said “EU policy will destroy the land and the Polish farmer” and “Green mess”.

In Poznań, farmers have gathered in front of the regional government office, and are planning to distribute fruit and vegetables to residents with whom they want to discuss their demands, reported broadcaster TVN.

The Polish agriculture minister, Czesław Siekierski, told broadcaster Polsat yesterday that he believes “the farmers are protesting for a just cause”. He said that talks are underway to establish new rules for trade with Ukraine.

“The goods coming in are most destabilising for Ukraine’s neighbouring countries but the EU has one common market,” said Siekierski, adding that his ministry has had already a series of talks with EU trade commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis and Ukraine’s agriculture minister.

At the same time, Siekierski agreed with the farmers regarding their second postulate, saying that some of the EU’s climate requirements “are so unreasonable that I am reminded of certain guidelines from the communist era”.

– Uważamy, że rolnicy protestują w słusznej sprawie – powiedział w programie #GośćWydarzeń minister @CzSiekierski z @nowePSL.https://t.co/eSmCqwsjpo

— PolsatNews.pl (@PolsatNewsPL) February 8, 2024

The minister added that these “unreasonable” requirements probably stem from the incompetence of EU officials who wanted to “write too much” into law about how farmers should work.

“Farmers have always cared about the environment, they have cared about animal welfare, because this is a primary concern for farmers,” he said. “They are not just protesting in their own interests, they are protesting in the interests of all of us as consumers. They want them to be able to produce so that Poles can have food.”

Last year, farmers joined freight carriers in blocking border crossings with Ukraine in protest against cheaper Ukrainian competition. The blockades caused huge disruption, with drivers often having to wait weeks to cross. The protests were suspended last month after a provisional agreement with the Polish government.

Polish truckers who have been blocking the Ukraine border since November have suspended their protest after signing an agreement with the government.

The blockade has been halted until 1 March while the government seeks to implement the terms of the deal https://t.co/6V1LVHb98w

— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) January 16, 2024

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Main image credit: Lukasz Cynalewski / Agencja Wyborcza.pl

Alicja Ptak is senior editor at Notes from Poland and a multimedia journalist. She previously worked for Reuters.

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