Paris will be under siege from 2 p.m. today as farmers intensify their protest action and attempt to cut off the capital from the rest of France. They have announced plans to blockade all roads leading to Paris with their tractors, a threat that prompted interior minister Gérald Darmanin to summon police chiefs to his office on Sunday.
Darmanin ordered them to ‘deploy a major defensive operation’ to ensure the farmers are not successful, particularly in their ambition to prevent access to airports and the international food market at Rungis. Prime minister Gabriel Attal had hoped he’d defused the anger of the agricultural industry on Friday when he travelled to the Haute-Garonne region in the south, where the protests began ten days ago, with a list of concessions.
The diminutive Attal, dwarfed by the farmers he courteously confronted, said that he understood their anger and reiterated what he’d said earlier in the week about farming being a ‘source of pride for France’. Much of what Attal promised was financial: an end to the rising cost of diesel fuel used for farming machinery (a result of tax breaks on the fuel being scrapped) and an emergency fund for cattle farmers.
His words were enough to lift the blockade on the A64, the motorway west of Toulouse, but they’ve had little effect on the rest of the country’s demoralised farmers. ‘We need to go further,’ said Arnaud Rousseau, president of the powerful FDSEA union. One of his regional representatives, Lucie Delbarre, meanwhile declared: ‘We have a government that doesn’t care about its farmers…it’s a pressure cooker ready to explode.’
Amid Attal’s rhetoric and suggested measures there was not one word about Europe, the source of much of the farmers’ anger.