Europe’s Changing Agricultural Policies After Farmers’ Protests

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The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) of the European Union (EU) is of great importance as it has the largest budget of the union. CAP has emerged as the first common policy adopted by the EU within the framework of the Treaty of Rome. Simultaneously, CAP attracts attention because it is the most comprehensive of common policies.

In the 1960s, CAP was implemented much more strictly than it is today, regardless of the country. Over time, structural and environmental measures have been developed within the scope of the policy, taking into account the geographical conditions of the agricultural sectors in EU member countries, the qualifications of employees, and the environmental effects of increasing the production power of the CAP.[1]

Conversely, it should be underlined that the agricultural sector in the EU plays a significant role in economic terms, creating an estimated gross added value of 222.3 billion euros in 2022. However, it should not be forgotten that the EU is also a competitive and important exporter of value-added products such as processed foods, meat and dairy products.[2]

The farmers’ anger, which first started in France and then spread to Europe, arose mainly due to various policy changes and funding cuts. Farmers think that with the removal of subsidies, diesel prices will increase, they will face additional costs for water consumption, and the European Green Deal will make competitive conditions difficult. Within this framework, it will be crucial to understand the following words of farmers who are members of the Fédération nationale des syndicats d’exploitants agricoles (FNSEA):[3]

“Farmers are working hard and are in a bad economic situation because of the rules imposed by Europe and France.”

It is observed that farmers in Germany and France, as well as in Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands, Poland, Italy and Hungary, protest the EU’s agricultural policies with their tractors. While Belgian farmers stopped the traffic flow in Brussels, Spanish farmers decided to take to the streets because the EU was being forced to change its agricultural policy. In addition to the Spanish farmers who plan to block roads with tractors in Catalonia on February 13, 2024, and in the capital Madrid on February 21, 2024, Polish farmers who took to the streets across the country demand the return of trade restrictions with Ukraine.[4]

It is seen that farmers, who express their reactions against both government policies and the EU’s agricultural policies for various reasons, resort to actions to make their voices heard together. Nevertheless, since the domestic politics of each country are subjective, policy measures developed in response to farmer demands and concerns will naturally differ. For instance, while Berlin is dragging out plans to cut diesel subsidies, Paris has cancelled the diesel tax increase and promised aid of 150 million euros. Moreover, The European Commission proposed limiting agricultural imports from Ukraine through an “emergency brake” and exempting farmers from the obligation to leave 4% of their land fallow for 2024.[5]

Despite these, as protests continue in many European capitals, the EU continues to make other concessions to farmers. The move by President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen, who shelved the anti-pesticide proposal, was the latest indication that she was determined to sacrifice environmental priorities. Notwithstanding, protests continue from the Netherlands to Bulgaria.[6]

It would not be wrong to argue that the political choices of farmers may be affected since the protests are continuing. For instance, last year in the Netherlands, when farmers blocked roads in response to regulations aimed at reducing nitrogen emissions, the government said “drastic measures” needed to be taken. However, this solution of the government would have been insufficient, which led to the establishment of the right-wing political party BoerBurgerBeweging (BBB), which promised farmers more say in agricultural policy, and also played an important role in the success of the party in the state elections in 2023.

Ultimately, the fact that farmers receive support from Europe’s far-right parties makes it likely that the parties will make more concessions in the future. So much so that far-right parties can attract the attention of farmers with populist economic policies and promises to support local production, the patriotic emphasis of far-right parties can find more support among farmers, and they can implement an effective communication strategy for farmers through media and communication tools.

[1] “Avrupa Birliği’nin Ortak Tarım Politikası”, İktisadi Kalkınma Vakfı,, (Date of Access: 06.02.2024).

[2] “CAP at a glance”, European Commission,, (Date of Access: 02.02.2024).

[3] “Çiftçilerin Protestoları Avrupa’nın Birçok Ülkesine Yayıldı”, Anadolu Ajansı,, (Date of Access: 03.02.2024).

[4] Jon Henley, “Why Are Farmers Protesting Across the EU And What Can the Bloc Do About It?”, The Guardian,, (Date of Access: 03.02.2024).

[5] Raf Casert, “EU Scraps Pesticide Proposal in Another Concession to Protesting Farmers”, AP News,, (Date of Access: 07.02.2024).

[6] Bart H. Meijer, “Dutch Farmers’ Protest Party Scores Big Election Win, Shaking Up Senate”, Reuters,, (Date of Access: 03.02.2024).

Semra Ece AKAT
Semra Ece AKAT
Semra Ece Akat graduated from İhsan Doğramacı Bilkent University, Faculty of Economics and Administrative Sciences, Department of Political Science and Public Administration in 2024. She is currently pursuing her Master's degree in Peace and Conflict Studies at the Department of International Relations, Institute of Social Sciences, Ankara Social Sciences University. Her main areas of interest are the European Union, Russian and Eastern European Studies and Security Studies. Akat is fluent in English, intermediate French, Bulgarian and Italian.