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Supervisor Elham AbolFateh
Editor in Chief Mohamed Wadie

Spanish Farmers Block Major Highway to France in Protest


Wed 28 Feb 2024 | 02:05 PM
Israa Farhan

Spanish farmers intensified their protests on Tuesday in Catalonia, the northeastern region of Spain, by shutting down the major highway linking Spain with France.

The closure was a demonstration of the challenges facing the agricultural sector.

This action comes as the European Parliament has passed legislation aimed at stopping the decline in biodiversity by mandating countries to repair damaged ecosystems, despite opposition from right-wing groups aligned with agricultural organizations.

Dozens of farmers, with their tractors, congregated on the AP-7 highway, causing a standstill in traffic in both directions near the town of Pontos in Girona province, about forty kilometers from the border, as reported by regional authorities.

To prevent extensive traffic jams, French Pyrenees regional police, bordering Spain, halted traffic on Tuesday morning on the A9 highway, which continues from the AP-7 on the French side, "from north to south... at the Le Boulou toll barrier."

The statement further mentioned that "trucks heading from north to south on the A9 will be stopped at Leucate up to Le Boulou, with no option to exit the A9, as all exits in this direction will be closed."

Additionally, Spanish farmers blocked other key routes, including the A2 highway that connects Barcelona with Madrid. 

This mobilization, particularly advocated by the Union of Farmers in Catalonia, was to protest against "unfair competition" from imported products from countries "that do not adhere to European standards."

The farmers initiated their movement on February 1st, with thousands of them demonstrating in Madrid on Monday, entering the city once again with their tractors.

In a related development, members of the European Parliament in a plenary session in Strasbourg voted by a majority of nearly fifteen votes to approve an agreement reached in November between Parliament negotiators and member states on this key legislation as part of the so-called Green Deal or Green Alliance.

It still requires ratification by the member states before it becomes effective. The legislation mandates the 27 countries to adopt measures that, by 2030, would restore 20% of the EU's terrestrial and marine areas.

Specific habitats like wetlands, forests, rivers, underwater meadows, and others must have at least 30% of them restored by 2030, with priority given to areas within the "Natura 2000" protected area network.

The European People's Party, the largest group in the Parliament, along with the far-right, opposed the legislation, while it was supported by the left and center factions, in collaboration with non-governmental environmental organizations.

Conservatives reiterated their distrust of the environmental regulations within the so-called "Green Deal," opposed by farmers, and considered them as "additional bureaucratic rules."

According to the final agreement, countries are simply required to progressively pay more attention to indicators such as butterfly populations, carbon content in the soil, and "high-diversity" agricultural lands.

The legislation stipulates the restoration of at least 30% of depleted peatlands used in agriculture by 2030, which, according to the right, risks weakening crop production.