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Resolving the agricultural crisis without giving up its line, the government's complex challenge

The executive still hopes to be able to write the epilogue of the agricultural protest without delay.

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Resolving the agricultural crisis without giving up its line, the government's complex challenge

The executive still hopes to be able to write the epilogue of the agricultural protest without delay. At a time when the intelligence services are worried about an overflow of anger if the “wait” for responses from the government was “too long”, the Prime Minister was preparing to unveil his first proposals on Friday at the end of a week punctuated by discussions with the unions. Even though two Ile-de-France organizations (FDSEA and Jeunes Agriculteurs) are calling on the same day for a “Paris blockade”. Gabriel Attal should be traveling to a center of protest - perhaps in Occitania - to provide "immediate responses" as well as a "message of love" and "speak to the hearts" of farmers, according to a advisor to the executive.

The head of government finalized his crisis exit plan with three of his ministers (Bruno Le Maire, Marc Fesneau, Christophe Béchu) during a meeting organized Thursday morning in Matignon. “We should not do things “at the same time”,” suggests a government source. By trying to avoid the pitfall of contradictory injunctions. “It should not be a matter of victory for some over others,” insists a minister primarily concerned by the crisis. Namely, the conclusion of a match between farmers, who want fewer standards, and environmentalists, who demand them, or between operators, who expect to be fairly remunerated, and consumers, faced with inflation. Both on the question of environmental standards and that of purchasing power, the anger of farmers is shaking up society's expectations. Even though 89% of French people also support their movement, according to an Odoxa-Backbone Consulting survey for Le Figaro.

From then on, the government is seeking “a position of balance which does not renounce either ecological ambition or food sovereignty”, in the words of those close to the Minister of Ecological Transition, Christophe Béchu. He refined on Thursday with Marc Fesneau, his counterpart from Agriculture, some of the points which will be announced by Gabriel Attal. “Ecology is part of the solution and should not be the problem,” argues Christophe Béchu’s office while that of Marc Fesneau warns against looking for scapegoats.

Five months before the European elections, European directives appear to be the ideal culprit. “We are in the process of doing a factual analysis text by text, regulation by regulation,” confirms a member of the government who thus shouts haro about the “overtransposition” of the European standards so criticized in the tractor cohorts. As early as last weekend, during a trip to the Rhône, the Prime Minister himself spoke of this “unbearable thing for farmers and for all French people” which consists of “banning certain practices or certain products in France and in at the same time to allow the importation of products from abroad which use these same products. “It’s incomprehensible,” he said before denouncing the “red tape” which “ruins life.” Throwing a stone in the garden of Brussels, in unison with an ambient discourse defying the European Union which is increasingly winning over farms. A singular crest line for the majority. “The trap is to say: either we are very demanding for the environment and we sacrifice agriculture, or we want to support agriculture and we sacrifice the environment. It’s a traditional debate, often staged, but completely deadly,” warns former Minister of Ecology François de Rugy.

During the meeting in Matignon, Bruno Le Maire “recalled that the main thing is to provide perspectives on European agricultural policy in the years to come so that the absolute priority is the protection of producers’ income”, notes- we in Bercy. By placing the demands of farmers before European standards, the government wants to avoid being overwhelmed by the National Rally (RN), which has already managed to impose its narrative on farmers, who in the past were much more resistant to the questioning of Europe by the FN. “We will have to convey a European message and re-specify the connection between agriculture and ecology in a second phase, during the general policy declaration next Tuesday,” suggests an executive official, above all in a hurry to “slam hard on the table” to quickly observe a decline in the mobilization of farmers.

The Macronist majority, which has placed ecology and Europe at the heart of its doctrine, is vigilantly observing the government's approach. “Let us take into account the request for simplification and support, but let us keep the objectives that we have set for ourselves in our environmental ambition. Standards are there to protect consumers; the objective is obviously to be the most virtuous,” insists Olga Givernet, the spokesperson for the deputies of the presidential Renaissance party. While farmers are also waiting for a gesture from the government to guarantee advantageous taxation on non-road diesel (GNR), the elected representative of Ain warns: “Let's not waste time in the ecological transition and let's stay the course to get out of the fossil fuels."

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