Italian farmers 'invade Rome' in the latest of EU-wide protests

Italian farmers are the latest group to cause chaos in a Europe-wide protest over EU regulations, as James Mates reports

The march of the tractors is becoming a genuine pan-European movement.

It started in France, but the idea and the tactics have taken hold, and there is now barely a major country in the EU that has remained untouched.

Today was billed as the big day in Italy.

“Invade Rome” said the posters, amid plans to surge into the centre of the Eternal City aboard hundreds of tractors and bring it to a standstill.

In the event a compromise was brokered, a symbolic tractor would make its way to the Colosseum and a rally would be held on the Circus Maximus, but there would be no attempt to paralyse the capital.

Farmers with tractors protest at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, Germany on January 16. Credit: AP

It passed off well, but in other cities around the country, Naples and Palermo most prominently, the tractors moved fully into the city centre.

Elsewhere in Europe – Madrid, Antwerp, Wroclaw in Poland – thousands of farmers and their heavy equipment were on the streets, or more often the motorways.

The demands are varied but have a common theme: rules issued by Brussels.

They hate new green rules – new bureaucracy often linked to green rules – and new trade deals that allow imports from countries with fewer rules to undercut them.

Polish farmers are angry at EU agrarian policy and cheap Ukraine produce imports which, they say, are undercutting their livelihoods. Credit: AP

National Governments are, under considerable pressure, getting the message.

Brussels is already having to rethink and the European elections on June 9 could result in a complete about-face.

Farmers have two big things in their favour: public opinion is largely on their side, and they are the possessors of highly mobile heavy machinery that can cause very significant disruption.

They have used both well so far, so expect further concessions to try and quell these protests in the weeks ahead.

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