Angry farmers block roads and walk cattle through streets as Europe protests spread

Hundreds of angry farmers took to the streets in Bulgaria’s capital, Sofia, on Monday to complain of what they called “the total failure” of the government to meet the mounting challenges of the agricultural sector.

The protest is just one of many across Europe that has seen tractors blocking roads and cattle walking through busy streets as farmers continue the protests.

In Bulgaria workers called on Agriculture Minister Kiril Vatev to step down for not keeping his promises to ease the administrative burden on the farming sector, to seek state compensation for high costs and falling incomes.

Like their colleagues elsewhere in Europe, Bulgarian farmers are frustrated with domineering European Union regulations, the hardships stemming from the surge in fertilizer and energy costs because of Russia’s war in Ukraine, the increasing imports of farm products that are flooding local markets and the undercutting of prices.

Apples are made available next to a poster reading ‘Let us produce’ as farmers block highways in France

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Ventsislav Varbanov, who chairs the Association of Agricultural Producers, complained that the government is adding more undue burdens, instead of seeking some relief for the farmers.

“Let me remind you that our interests were not protected neither as the Ukrainian goods flooded us,” he said, referring to cheaper products exported from Ukraine, “nor had we budget guarantees for the losses we suffered because of the war in Ukraine.”

Varbanov pleaded for a long-term government policy: “We want to know what will be in tomorrow, in the next year, in the next five years.”

Meanwhile in Italy, farmers protesting about red tape and cheap imports from outside the EU headed towards Rome in convoys of tractors on Monday, while their colleagues in the north led a cow through the streets of Milan.

Farmers gather with their tractors at the Agrotica agricultural fair in Thessaloniki Greece

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Farmers from agricultural regions such as Tuscany headed south towards the capital, flying the Italian flag and carrying hand-written signs with slogans including “No farmer, No food”.

They were expected to congregate on the outskirts of Rome pending further protests later in the week.

“We are going to Rome to seek a confrontation with our politicians to resolve our problems,” said Tuscan farmer Davide Rosati.

A protester blows a horn during farmers protest in front of the Agriculture Ministry in Sofia

(Valentina Petrova)

The Italian farmers share many of the grievances expressed by their counterparts in other parts of Europe during a wave of protests over the past few weeks.

And in Belgian angry farmers, continuing a protest that started last week, blocked the Dutch-Belgian motorway border crossing between Maastricht and Liege, Dutch traffic information site ANWB said.

ANWB said the traffic on the A2 motorway was blocked in the direction of Maastricht to Liege.

Dutch media showed pictures of dozens of tractors blocking the border crossing.

On Friday, Dutch and Belgian farmers blocked several motorway border crossings on the west side of the border, closer to Antwerp.

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