Farmers Clash With Police and Macron at Paris Agricultural Fair

France’s farmers vented their fury at President Emmanuel Macron on Saturday as he arrived at the annual agricultural show in Paris, a giant fair long seen as a test of presidents’ relationship with the countryside.

A large crowd that had camped outside the night before broke in and scuffled with police officers in riot gear while Mr. Macron entered through a side door to meet with unions demanding an end to hardships in the industry.

During an hourlong closed-door meeting before the fair opened, with top cabinet members at Mr. Macron’s side, farmers sang the French national anthem, “La Marseillaise,” at the top of their lungs, blew whistles, raised fists and shouted for the president to resign, as skittish prize cows and pigs brought to the capital from farms around the country looked on nervously from their display pens.

The rowdy confrontation was the latest in a monthlong showdown that has seen farmers blockade roads around France and in Paris — a movement that has spread to other countries, including Greece, Poland, Belgium and Germany.

At issue are what farmers say are sharply rising costs, unfair competition from imports allowed into Europe from other countries able to produce food more cheaply, and especially European Union regulations intended to contain or reverse climate change.

Agriculture accounts for about 30 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, and the European Union says drastic change is required. Farmers say European targets are imposing suffocating administrative and financial burdens.

When Mr. Macron emerged from the meeting, his face pale and haggard, he announced that his government would present a bill next month to address an “income crisis, a crisis of confidence and a crisis of recognition” for farmers in France. “We need to show recognition, respect, pride for the agricultural model and for our farmers,” he said.

It was the latest in a series of attempts, led by the new prime minister, Gabriel Attal, to appease farmers. But they are near unanimous in demanding concrete changes rather than promises.

Mr. Macron remained at the fair, known as the Salon International d’Agriculture, to engage in a spirited impromptu discussion with a select group of farmers eager to communicate their frustrations directly. Many of them wore yellow, green and red hats to signify the unions they belonged to.

“Cheap grain imports from Ukraine are destroying French agriculture. What are you going to do about it?” one farmer demanded, as Mr. Macron, without his suit jacket and in a white shirt and tie, listened and took notes.

“We can hardly make ends meet!” shouted another. “We shouldn’t have to block all the roads in the country to get the relief we need.”

Mr. Macron, who has struggled throughout his almost seven-year presidency to connect with the poorer and more rural parts of France, where he is viewed as remote and aloof, urged farmers not to see the situation as “catastrophic,” saying that French agriculture was “not falling apart.”

He called for calm. “We will not respond to this agricultural crisis in a few hours,” he said, adding that his government was taking numerous steps to address deep-seated problems, including holding negotiations next month at the presidential palace with farmers unions, food manufacturers and retailers to build “an agricultural plan for 2040.”

That seems a long way off to farmers and their families struggling to make it to the end of the month.

Mr. Macron said an “emergency cash-flow plan” would bring together banks and the agricultural sector to help farms having difficulties, and promised to push for a Europe-wide solution to another issue: large supermarket chains that form purchasing consortiums to bargain down food prices, which farmers say strips them of a fair income. He also announced the establishment of a production cost index that would “serve as a price floor.”

“I stand alongside our farmers and French agriculture,” Mr. Macron insisted.

Before Mr. Macron’s visit to the fair, Mr. Attal had sought to avert protests by outlining a package of measures aimed at reassuring farmers that agriculture remained a top priority for the government.

“We want to place agriculture among the nation’s fundamental interests in the same way as our defense or our security,” Mr. Attal said.

But those promises did not appease the throngs that had descended on the salon early Saturday morning. The crowd was so dense and rowdy that at one point, farmers and police officers appeared to risk being crushed. People tumbled over one another into hay-filled goat enclosures in one part of a vast hall holding livestock.

Visiting the salon has been a political rite of passage for every French president since Jacques Chirac, who was in office from 1995 to 2007, often serving as a barometer of the ability to connect with rural France. Mr. Chirac, considered something of a gentleman farmer, was usually warmly welcomed, while his successor Nicolas Sarkozy lost his cool with a protester whom he told to “get lost, poor idiot” — a moment that would dog him for the rest of his presidency.

Early in Mr. Macron’s tenure, he was greeted at the salon with an egg thrown near his face, but he continued his tour, meeting and greeting farmers in the hall.

But the mass clashes with the police on Saturday were like nothing at the fair in recent memory. They suggest that the farmers’ movement is unlikely to die down any time soon.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Keep in Touch with the Community

Subscribe to positivesocials now and find your match

PositiveSocials is a groundbreaking online platform that caters to individuals and couples seeking information, support, and a sense of community in the realm of sexual health, specifically focusing on sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and relationships.

Join on Positivesocials

All features are free until we reach 100k users, unbelievably low price after, Enjoy!

Register Now

• Positivesocials- All rights reserved