Spanish, French farmers block border days before EU election

Farmers protesting unfair competition from outside the EU

Spanish and French farmers blocked roads along the border through the Pyrenees mountains on Monday ahead of European Parliament elections to protest against what they say is unfair competition from outside the European Union, reported Reuters.

Earlier this year, farmers obstructed roads for weeks in countries across the EU, saying they faced rising costs and taxes, red tape, excessive environmental regulations and unfair competition from cheap food imports.

With EU elections looming on June 6-9, French and Spanish farmers used dozens of tractors to block both sides of the border on the AP-8 highway in the Basque Country and the AP-7 highway in Catalonia. 

“Since we have European elections, let’s see if our politicians take the sector seriously and listen to our demands,” Spanish farmer Josep Juscafrase, 54, told Reuters.

Weeks of farmer protests compelled the EU in May to extend subsidy allowances by six months to support the 27-nation bloc’s agricultural sector.

The EU also watered down parts of its flagship Green Deal environmental policies, removing a goal to cut farming emissions from its 2040 climate roadmap.

“It’s important (to hold the protest) because in France, agriculture is hard. It’s been neglected for around 20 years or even longer. And we feed the people, you know,” French farmer Sylvain Fourriques, 39, said.

At the Catalan border with France, farmers played soccer and cooked paellas while blocking crossings, creating long queues of cars and trucks. 

“While thousands of truck drivers remain blocked on many roads without being able to get out or even eat…, farmers calmly prepare to eat a good paella. And where are the police?” Spanish transport association Fenadismer, which estimates 20,000 trucks cross the border with France each day, said on X.

The European Parliament election begins on Thursday, although most countries will cast their ballots on Sunday.