While the EU caved earlier this week to demands that they drop key climate provisions and punitive taxes aimed at cutting greenhouse gas pollution, Polish farmers on Friday launched a series of protests against EU climate policies as well as the economic prioritization of cheap Ukrainian imports over their own.
The strike, scheduled to last around 30 days, will include more of what we’ve seen across Europe over the past month; blocked roads, protests at government offices, and likely clashes with the police.
There have been more than 250 protests scheduled around the country, which began at 10 a.m. local time on Friday by farmers who say their “patience has run out,” according to Notes from Poland.
“We have no other choice,” said Marcin Wilgos, an organiser of the protest in Dorohusk at the border with Ukraine, in a statement to AFP, while standing next to a banner demanding that the EU ban Ukrainian grain and sugar.
According to Poland’s farmers’ trade union “Our patience has run out. Brussels’ position on the last day of January 2024 is unacceptable for our entire agricultural community,” adding “Additionally, the passivity of the Polish authorities… regarding the import of agricultural produce and food products from Ukraine leave us with no other choice but to declare a general strike.”
The farmers also called for the easing of ‘green’ requirements introduced by the EU, as well as those included in the bloc’s upcoming Green Deal.
“They’re talking about climate protection. But why should it be done at farmers’ expense?” said 62-year-old farmer Janusz Bialoskorski, protesting in Poznan, northwest Poland. “We do not produce plastics polluting the oceans, we do not build cruise ships that pollute the environment nor do we fly to Davos on our jets.“
As AFP reports further:
The protests came shortly after Polish truckers staged a two-month blockade of major border crossings to demand the reintroduction of restrictions to enter the EU for their Ukrainian competitors.
The hauliers have suspended the blockade until March but warned they will return to the border if their demands are not met.
Poland has been among Ukraine’s staunchest supporters during Russia’s nearly two-year invasion, but frictions over grain import restrictions introduced by Poland and four other EU countries in June have further strained ties between the allies.
Polish Agriculture Minister Czeslaw Siekierski told state radio on Friday that “complete” bans on imports could be imposed on other groups of products as well.
“It may be needed for sugar, if the influx is too large. It may be needed for poultry,” Siekierski said, adding that the government intended to raise the issue in talks with Kyiv.
Asked about the protests, Siekierski said the farmers had “legitimate expectations and demands” to limit imports from Ukraine, which farmers say are unfairly driving down prices.
According to Polish farmers, competition from Ukraine has crushed their earnings, as Ukrainian producers are not required to adhere to EU rules on regulations such as animal welfare.
“The glut of products from Ukraine, produced not in accordance with EU standards and procedures, is a huge burden for us,” said Wilgos.
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