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President of France subject of farmers' fury

By JULIAN SHEA in London | China Daily Global | Updated: 2024-02-26 09:40

Raphael Glucksmann (second from left), a member of the European Parliament, visits the Salon livestock show in Paris, France on Sunday. AFP

France's President Emmanuel Macron was greeted with insults and jeers from protesting farmers amid angry scenes when he visited an agricultural fair in Paris on Saturday.

As he entered the part of the annual expo, known as the Salon, devoted to livestock, hundreds of people tried to storm the gates and were confronted by police, leading to the temporary closure of the fair, and to three arrests.

Riot police were deployed to keep demonstrators away from Macron, following weeks of tension and protests across the country about government subsidies to the agriculture sector, and European pesticide regulations, scenes that are being replicated in other European Union countries in the run-up to elections this summer.

Macron and several members of his Cabinet attended the weeklong trade event, as has been the tradition among leading politicians going back 20 years.

After the incident, he blamed far-right political rivals for hijacking the farmers' protests for their own unrelated aims.

"I wasn't born yesterday; I know where some of the protesters are coming from," he said, referring to "political manipulation" that he implied was being done by the National Rally party.

He adopted a deliberately informal style when speaking to journalists after a two-hour meeting with farmers' leaders, promising further talks after the Salon finishes.

"I always prefer dialogue to confrontation," Macron said. "I am telling you that work is being done on the ground, we are in the process of simplifying things."

But members of farming unions were unimpressed by Macron's appearance at the event, and defended their angry protests.

"Macron's presence here wasn't asked for: he's taunting us," Amelie Rebiere, a representative of the Coordination Rurale union, told the Politico website. "We're tired of false promises. It's not our job to make things go smoothly for the president."

Eric Labarre, a member of the FNSEA union, told AFP: "Did you hear him? He doesn't let us speak, he talks down to us. We want him to go."

Jordan Bardella, National Rally president, is the leading candidate in the European elections for the party, which is currently polling ahead of Macron's Renaissance party.

Bardella was due to visit the Salon on Sunday, where he was expected to receive a more friendly welcome. He has called Macron "the main advocate for the (EU) Green Deal, which reduces yields and livestock numbers".

He has also previously accused "the EU and the Europe of Macron "of wanting "the death of (French) agriculture".

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