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French farmer protesters promise to take Paris under siege

Protesting farmers vowed on Monday to surround Paris with barricades of tractors and slow traffic, seeking to lay siege to the centre of power in France in a battle with the government over the future of their industry, which has been shaken by the effects of the war in Ukraine.

Across France, farmers are blocking roads with tractors and lorries. The government plans to mobilise 15,000 police and paramilitary gendarmes to control the demonstrations, who will be ordered to show “restraint”. French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said ahead of the planned siege:

“We don’t intend to allow government buildings, or tax collection buildings, or grocery stores to be damaged or trucks transporting foreign produce to be stopped. Obviously, that is unacceptable.”

President Emmanuel Macron has ordered security to ensure that Roissy-Charles de Gaulle airport in the north and Orly in the south remain open and that the Rungis international wholesale food market south of Paris remains open, he said. Police and gendarmes have also been ordered to prevent incursions into Paris itself, Darmanin added.

The government is trying to prevent discontent among farmers from spreading ahead of European Parliament elections later this year, which are seen as a key test for Macron’s government.

During a visit to a farm on Sunday, Prime Minister Gabriel Attal tried to address farmers’ concerns after a series of concessions announced on Friday failed to defuse the crisis. He stated:

“I want us to clarify things and see what extra measures we can take to meet farmers’ complaints that they face unfair competition.”

Attal agreed that French farmers are prohibited by environmental regulations from using some products that neighbouring countries such as Italy are still allowed to use.

Farmers say they are “fed up” with their working conditions, including cuts in wages and pensions and mountains of red tape.

Arnaud Rousseau, leader of one of the main farmers’ unions, the FNSEA, said Sunday that his members expect much more from the government. The FNSEA and the Young Farmers plan to begin a siege of Paris around 2 p.m. (1300 GMT) on Monday.

In the southern city of Lyon, authorities said they expected farmers to also stage protests with road closures.

Taxi drivers with other grievances also organised protests on Monday, adding to the nationwide picture of traffic congestion. Traffic authorities said the protests caused congestion on several major motorways leading into Paris on Monday morning. Authorities warned other road users to prepare for problems and use public transport where possible.

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