Polish farmers launch month-long general strike, block roads nationwide

PERIGUEUX, FRANCE - JANUARY 24: French farmers blocking a road in protest of rising costs and excessive regulation, on January 24, 2024 in Périgueux, Dordogne, FranceFrench farmers blocking a road in protest of rising costs and excessive regulation, on January 24, 2024 in Périgueux, Dordogne, France

Polish farmers blocked hundreds of roads across the country on Friday as they demonstrated against EU climate policy and an influx of cheap agricultural goods from Ukraine, both of which are diminishing their earnings.

The Ukrainian border service said that around 100 farmers and 50 cars blocked access to the countries’ Medyka border crossing, while agricultural workers disrupted the flow of traffic at two other crossings.

Meanwhile, the BBC reported that around 6,000 farmers assembled in the western city of Poznan, parking over 1,000 tractors in front of the offices of the regional government. Strikingly, they also placed a coffin there to symbolize the death of local agriculture.

Poland’s farmers’ union said that the demonstrations marked the beginning of a month-long general strike.

Friday’s rallies coincided with escalating protests in Spain, Hungary, and Belgium, where agricultural workers all blocked roads to express their frustration with the EU’s Green deal.

In recent weeks, protests have been taking place right across Europe, with farmers complaining that the bloc’s efforts to bring down carbon emissions are threatening their livelihoods and, ultimately, European agriculture itself.

In Poland, though, cheap imports from Ukraine, which since 2022 have been allowed to enter the EU more freely, seem to be of no less concern than Brussels’ burdensome environmental restrictions.

Poland’s agriculture minister, Czesław Siekierski, told public radio that “Farmers have legitimate concerns, expectations, and demands to limit the excessive inflow of goods from Ukraine, as well as from other non-European markets, to the EU.”

Although EU officials have acknowledged European farmers’ grievances, they have so far offered few major concessions other than the withdrawal of regulations mandating a 50% reduction in pesticide use by 2030.

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