Tensions Between French Government and Farmers Ahead of Agriculture Fair

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Controversy looms over France on the eve of the Agriculture Fair as President Emmanuel Macron seeks to engage in a debate with the agricultural community. The leading French agricultural union, FNSEA, has announced its refusal to participate in the debate, citing dissatisfaction with the invitation extended to the environmental organization, Les Soulèvements de la Terre.

FNSEA President Arnaud Rousseau criticized Macron, stating that the president failed to grasp the issues facing farmers. The French government subsequently rescinded its invitation to the environmental organization.

The Élysée Palace has admitted to a “communication error” after initially announcing the invitation to Les Soulèvements de la Terre for the debate. FNSEA’s president expressed disappointment, stating, “Politics is more than just PR or a show. At this moment, this invitation gives farmers the impression that their issues have not been understood.” Rousseau vehemently refused to participate in the debate, denouncing it as cynical and detrimental to productive dialogue.

The invitation extended to Les Soulèvements de la Terre, previously labeled as eco-terrorists by the Interior Minister, has also caused division within the government. Agriculture Minister Marc Fesneau distanced himself from the Élysée, labeling the invitation as inappropriate. Fesneau emphasized that Les Soulèvements de la Terre employ tactics such as Molotov cocktails, making dialogue with them untenable. However, he expressed hope that the debate could still proceed.

If President Macron intended to appease agricultural discontent, akin to efforts made after the “yellow vest” crisis, through extensive televised discussions, it appears to have backfired. The absence of the major farmers’ union raises questions about the debate’s credibility. Additionally, concerns linger over the tone of the debate, particularly with more radical agricultural representatives, such as those from the Coordination Rurale, who have not withdrawn their participation.

In recent weeks, agricultural discontent has manifested not only in France but also across Europe, with protests and road blockades. Farmers are demanding higher incomes and improved working conditions. Fifty tractors participated in a slow-moving protest on the Parisian ring road on Friday, February 23rd, underscoring the depth of their grievances.

Soukaina Sghir

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