Europe’s Agrarian Uprisings: Brussels Is Reaping What It Sowed – OpEd


Across the European landscape, a disquiet rumbles beneath the surface of rolling hills and fertile plains. It emanates from the very backbone of the continent – its farmers. From the tractor rallies of France and Germany to the demonstrations in Poland and the Netherlands, a wave of agrarian protests has erupted, driven by a potent cocktail of frustration, betrayal, and a yearning for stability.

Over the past few years, farmers in Western Europe have increasingly vehemently opposed policies designed to protect the environment, arguing that such measures incur excessive costs. Environmental regulations, lauded as “Farm to Fork” by the EU, are perceived by many as constricting livelihoods and punishing hardworking farmers and producers. Quotas, restrictions, and a labyrinthine bureaucracy squeeze profits and threaten generational continuity. Soaring inflation, amplified by fuel and fertilizer costs, erodes already tight margins, pushing farmers to the precipice of financial ruin. 

To top it all off, unchecked imports, often produced in countries outside the EU and therefore under much less rigorous standards, felt like a dagger in the back, a consequence of trade deals prioritizing global markets over domestic well-being. This sense of alienation from distant power centers in Brussels and national capitals only compounds the protestors’ frustration. Farmers feel unheard, ignored and their concerns dismissed by those in charge; they have simply been taken for granted and fed false promises for too long. 

The anger is deep, justified and widespread. In the Netherlands there have been intense and recurrent protests since a 2019 court ruling on nitrogen emissions, sparking government initiatives to close down farms and reduce animal numbers. In Belgium, similar conflicts led to convoys of tractors congesting the EU quarter of Brussels in March of the previous year, while in Ireland, although on a smaller scale, dairy farmers, disgruntled with nitrogen restrictions, marched with their cows to the offices of three government ministers. In January, German farmers, over 10,000 of them, with some 5,000 tractors and trucks, descended upon Berlin’s famous Brandenburg Gate – the culmination of protests that have lasted for more than a week and saw them blocking highway entrances and causing total chaos in the capital. The main stated source of their anger is a government plan to phase out tax relief on agricultural diesel, yet the true triggers of this uprising are much more complex.

France, has also witnessed a crescendo of agricultural discontent. Since the start of the year, farmers have taken to the streets to express their profound dissatisfaction with the status quo, most recently by blocking major highways in and out of Paris. The government responded with the deployment of 15,000 police and paramilitary gendarmes, a move that raises serious fears of further escalations.

Although there are specific grievances and demands in every nation, there complaints of the protesters have much more in common than what one may initially think. It is not just one particular piece of regulation, one tax or one subsidy that brought them all to the streets. Instead, their anger is tied into a broader societal unease simmering within Europe. Populist sentiments, disillusionment with elites, and a longing for traditional values find fertile ground among those who feel ostracized by globalization, technological advancements and especially, the “green new deal”. The Green policies promoted and forcibly imposed by Eurocrats are increasingly are seen as nonsensical and totally contradicting serious priorities that any nation should have in a time of global geopolitical turmoil and conflict, such as self sufficient food production. 

And of course, this is where we see a feedback loop, as the wider public is also now increasingly sympathizing with, if not inspired by, the farmers, who have become potent symbols of common sense, of the betrayal that the hardworking man has suffered, of the abuses of power of the elites in their ivory towers and the underestimated, disregarded, looked down upon laborer. 

While mainstream media is desperately trying to link the farmers to the Far Right so that “polite society” can easily dismiss them as extremists, there are actual, serious political ramifications of these protests and they are already palpable. Their grievances are shared much more widely than their governments might realize: it’s not a farmer problem, it’s a society problem. The disasters unleashed by centralization, by the arrogance of the powers that be and by their endless greed and need for more power have impacted every sector and every citizen that doesn’t work for the State. 

The upcoming European Parliament elections in 2024 are likely to be a battleground for these issues, with Eurosceptic and conservative parties capitalizing on the farmers’ discontent, framing the protests as a rejection of Brussels’ overreach and a call for a return to national sovereignty.

As Europe stands at this crossroads, the question emerges: how will it respond to this agrarian uprising? Will it be met with understanding and dialogue, or with further alienation and crackdowns? The answer will shape not only the future of European agriculture, but potentially the political landscape of the continent itself.

Claudio Grass

Claudio Grass is a Mises Ambassador and an independent precious metals advisor based out of Switzerland. His Austrian approach helps his clients find tailor-made solutions to store their physical precious metals under Swiss and Liechtenstein law. He is the founder of and recognized as an expert on monetary history, economics, and precious metals. A financial and economic speaker and publicist. He writes about global markets, international finance, geopolitics, history and economics. Claudio is a passionate advocate of free-market thinking and libertarian philosophy. Following the teachings of the Austrian School of Economics, he is convinced that sound money and human freedom are inextricably linked to each other.

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