Farmers in Spain have blocked roads across the country to protest steadily rising fuel costs and unpopular European Union trade policies that they say are wrecking the viability of their businesses.
The protests in Spain follow similar actions by farmers in several other EU states, including Germany, France, Belgium, Poland, and the Netherlands.
“We [farmers] face the same problems throughout the EU,” Donaciano Dujo, vice president of ASAJA, one of Spain’s leading farmers associations, said in broadcast remarks.
On Feb. 6, thousands of Spanish farmers—driving their now-familiar green tractors—blocked highways and roads in several parts of the country to press their demands.
Like recent protests elsewhere in the EU, most tractors bore placards reading, “No farmers, No food.”
Protests disrupted traffic in the southern cities of Seville and Granada and the northeastern city of Girona near the border with France.
According to traffic data, more than a dozen major arteries were disrupted in the Spanish regions of Andalusia, Castille-La Mancha, Catalonia, and Valencia.
As with their colleagues in other EU countries, Spanish farmers complain of mounting inflation and what they see as unfair trade competition from non-EU states.
They also reject excessive EU bureaucracy and the “climate-friendly” policies espoused by the bloc, which they say create unfair advantages for foreign producers.
“We spend more time dealing with paperwork than we do in the field,” Eva Garcia, a protesting farmer in the northern city of Vitoria, told Reuters.
She went on to assert that the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy is “choking” Spanish farmers and other agricultural workers.
Manuel Zamudio, a 46-year-old protester in the city of Ronda, accused multinational retail chains of taking advantage of the situation to manipulate the market—to the detriment of farmers and consumers alike.
“Politicians only care about the big chains,” he said. “We farmers have been sold out.”
The protest, which ASAJA and other farmers’ associations support, appeared to have the desired effect.
Soon afterward, Spain’s Agriculture Ministry announced plans to earmark 269 million euros ($290 million) of extra assistance for the nation’s farmers.
Nevertheless, protests continued on Feb. 7, with tractors blocking the Port of Castellon and farmers’ convoys converging on the city of Barcelona.
European Farmers UniteCharacterized by the use of agricultural vehicles to block roads, European farmers’ protests first appeared in the Netherlands in 2019.
Since then, they have spread to several other West European countries, where farmers nurse many of the same grievances.
Last month, farmers in Germany blocked roads nationwide—and engaged in other acts of civil disobedience—as part of a weeklong strike. The strike culminated in a massive protest in Berlin, where thousands of farmers parked tractors and trucks near the iconic Brandenburg Gate on Jan. 15.
The action was prompted by government plans to raise taxes on Germany’s agricultural sector and eliminate farm subsidies.
German farmers complain that the measures—if carried out—would drive most of them out of business.
Germany’s EU-friendly coalition government says the measures are needed to offset a 17-billion-euro ($18.3 billion) shortfall in the state’s budget for 2024.
Berlin sought to quell farmers’ anger earlier this year by promising to keep tax exemptions in place while phasing out subsidies over three years.
Protesting farmers, however, backed by Germany’s leading farmers’ association, demand the measures be scrapped entirely.
Late last month, farmers in France also hit the streets, blocking roads across the country—including in and around Paris—for several days.
As with their counterparts in other EU states, French farmers demand that the government take steps to curb inflation and protect local agriculture from foreign competition.
In France, too, farmers’ tractors bore placards with slogans reading, “Too many taxes, too many rules, and no income to live on.”
In hopes of avoiding escalation, Paris dropped plans to phase out diesel subsidies and pledged to ease environmental restrictions on agricultural production. However, farmers said the moves didn’t go far enough, vowing to continue their protests until their grievances are addressed.
EU Summit BesiegedProtests in France soon spread to neighboring Belgium, where frustrated farmers converged on Zeebrugge Port—the country’s second largest seaport—on Jan. 30.
“Farmers are really desperate,” Mark Wulfrancke, a spokesman for Belgium’s General Farmers Association, said at the time. “We warned the government this would happen.”
On the same day, hundreds of farmers defiantly parked their tractors outside the EU Parliament building in Brussels.
They remained in the capital until Feb. 1, when the city hosted a summit of EU leaders.
During the summit, protesters outside the EU Parliament building burned bales of hay and pelted police with eggs.
In hopes of defusing the situation, visiting EU leaders voiced sympathy for the farmers’ plight but offered little in the way of practical solutions.
Protests in France briefly subsided after Prime Minister Gabriel Attal announced plans to provide farmers with tax breaks and additional government aid.
Nevertheless, Paris is bracing for a fresh round of protests, while reports have emerged of similar actions by farmers in both Greece and Italy.