The European Union can’t eat tanks
European farmers are up in arms. Rising costs, the removal of subsidies, new environmental measures and cuts to finance the war in Ukraine are strangling a sector that is essential to the continent’s food sovereignty and has become the scapegoat of the Eurocrats.
After seeing the images of half of Germany blocked by the avalanche of tractors heading towards the Brandenburg Gate, one might think that you reap what you sow. Europe’s political class has long been fomenting discord against the agricultural sector, and it was only a matter of time before one day or another it paid the consequences.
These protests are the latest in a series of farmers’ demonstrations across Europe. Previously, similar demonstrations have been seen in the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Spain and other European states, where farmers have also taken to the streets to express their dissatisfaction with the effects of planned environmental reforms and high production costs.
The casus belli of the German rural revolt
Although grouping all the demonstrations under a common denominator is tempting, they have mainly been triggered by specific national situations. The German agricultural sector is opposed to proposed cuts in fuel subsidies used in agriculture. An austerity policy that the German government argues became necessary after a Constitutional Court verdict prohibited the coalition government from transferring 60 billion euros in appropriations to mitigate the effects of the pandemic on the fight against climate change.
The cuts were intended to eliminate the existing tax benefits for diesel and the road tax exemption for agricultural and forestry vehicles. This would have allowed the federal government to save almost 1 billion euros in additional revenue from the official amount it has to save in the 2024 fiscal year – still pending parliamentary approval – of around 17 billion euros out of a budget of 450 billion euros.
This is against the backdrop of the war in Ukraine and sanctions on Russia. The war, instigated and perpetuated by the US and its client states in Europe, has been devastating for the German economy and industrial sector. Yet Berlin has pledged more than 17.1 billion euros in military aid to Ukraine from 24 January 2022, the same amount it would have to save through cuts during 2024.
But of course, these billions of euros in military “aid” are recycled into the German military-industrial complex which, like the one of the United States, is making a killing from this war, courtesy of the taxpayers and farmers who suffer the cuts because there is no money and the Ukrainians who serve as cannon fodder for the corporate interests behind these conflicts. As President Biden keeps repeating to keep the funds flowing, the money going to “Ukraine” is a good investment.
Climate targets vs. food sovereignty
Despite the loss of more than 5 million farms since 2005, a decline of 37%, Europe is generally self-sufficient in most foodstuffs. However, support for farmers provided by the Common Agricultural Policy is essential in ensuring the continuity of farms and crops in the EU. Especially since the increased costs caused by the sanitary crisis, the logistical funnel and the war in Ukraine.
Eurocrats in Brussels are nervous about the agricultural revolt on the continent. The EU has set a global goal of zero emissions by 2050, and EU officials are concerned that the outpouring of protests could set back the ambitious climate targets set by the European Commission.
According to Greenpeace, the current system, which pushes farmers to run large, intensively industrialised farms is broken and protesting for business as usual will not help. In any case, the situation of political neglect in which the rural world finds itself is unsustainable. The transition to a more sustainable model has to guarantee much more than the mere survival of the sector.
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