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France To Push For EU Law Changes As Farmers Block Paris Highways

By Reuters
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France To Push For EU Law Changes As Farmers Block Paris Highways

France said it would push to ease European Union environmental regulations on fallow farmland this week, as tractors blocked major highways out of Paris on Monday and nationwide farmers' protests intensified.

The French government on Friday dropped plans to gradually reduce state subsidies on agricultural diesel and promised a reduction in red tape and an easing of environmental regulations, but farmers' organisations said that was not enough and pledged to step up the pressure.

The head of France's biggest farming organisation said farmers would block all major highways out of Paris at about 30 kilometres (18 miles) from the centre. In Brussels too, traffic on the ring road around the capital was disrupted by angry farmers.

"What we have understood is that as long as the protest is far from Paris, the message is not getting through," Arnaud Rousseau, head of the FNSEA union, said on RTL radio.

Taxi drivers protesting were also protesting in several French cities over new tariffs for medical transport, which could add to traffic chaos in Paris.

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Rousseau said farmers would continue their action everywhere in France "with the aim to get emergency measures about the core of our business".

Rousseau said he was scheduled to meet French Prime Minister Gabriel Attal on Monday.

'Pro-Farming Policies'

Farming Minister Marc Fesneau said on Monday that, at a European Union leaders' summit in Brussels this week, President Emmanuel Macron would make a push for more pro-farming policies to address grievances shares by many farmers in the bloc.

Fesenau added he would himself travel to Brussels this week in his bid to soften EU regulations regarding agricultural land that has to remain fallow under new green rules.

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Asked when he wanted to reach an agreement with the European Commission on how to revisit the rules, Fesneau said "this week".

The EU's 2023 nature restoration law requires countries to introduce environmental measures on a fifth of their land and sea by 2030. To reach this goal, a chunk of around 4% of farmland has to remain fallow.

French farmers have complained this could hurt their businesses, and the government in Paris pledged to lobby on their behalf in Brussels.

Read More: Why Are French Farmers Protesting?

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