Commission vice-president faces protest from Italian farmers

On Monday (15 May), a group of Italian farmers protested to the cry of ‘No Europe without agriculture’ outside the venue where Commission executive Vice-President Frans Timmermans was delivering a speech.

Timmermans was in Taranto, Italy, to join a so-called dialogue with citizens event organised by the Commission’s representation in Italy.

According to Coldiretti, the organiser of the protest and one of the leading farmers’ associations in Italy, there were hundreds of farmers rallying against Timmermans, who is in charge of delivering the EU’s flagship environmental policy, the Green Deal.

In a note, Coldiretti explained that the initiative was aimed “against the European Union’s ideological regulations and unrestrained follies that risk distorting the food style of the Mediterranean Diet and the Italian agriculture forever”.

Besides the usual bone of contentions with Brussels, such as the nutritional labelling Nutri-score and cell-grown meat, protesters were particularly vocal against the reform of the Industrial Emissions Directive (IED), renamed ‘stable-killer directive’.

The proposed overhaul of the Industrial Emissions Directive (IED), unveiled by the EU executive in April 2022, aims to reduce harmful emissions coming from industrial installations, the scope of which is being expanded to include some of the largest livestock farms in the EU.

The Commission’s proposed threshold of 150 ‘livestock units’ (LSUs) – the point at which farms will be defined as ‘industrial’ and therefore penalised under the directive has proved controversial.

Farmers carried banners like “Livestock farming does not pollute” and “Emissions directive = closed stables”, arguing that reducing the production of meat and dairy products in Europe would open the doors for foodstuff made in laboratories.

The position of protesting farmers is close to the one backed by lawmakers in the European Parliament’s agriculture committee (AGRI), who recently voted to maintain the status quo in the EU’s plans to cut emissions.

According to them, cattle should be exempt from the IED rules, and the threshold of poultry and pigs impacted by the plans should be raised.

Protesters also complained about using agricultural lands for energy production through photovoltaic panels.

Of the three main farmers’ associations in Italy, Coldiretti is the one perceived as closer to the right ruling government in Italy.

In her first-ever public appearance since the elections, Italy’s prime minister Giorgia Meloni visited the annual Coldiretti convention.

During that event, Tajani explicitly said that the right government coalition has “an alternative vision to that of Frans Timmermans regarding protecting the environment in agriculture.

“His vision is ideological, ours is pragmatical,” he said, adding that Europe is a continent based on a ‘real economy’ and that it is unthinkable to make environmental policy by damaging industry and agriculture sectors.

Giovanni Maiorano, an Italian MP for the right-wing party Brothers of Italy, backed the protest.

“I agree with the demonstration of Coldiretti farmers who civilly demonstrated in Taranto against Frans Timmermans,” he said in a note.

He added that the government would keep defending “food sovereignty and Italian products, the fruit of our land and the work of our farmers” in Europe.

A recent attempt to bring together farmers against the main Green Deal provisions was made by the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP), which has recently decided to stop supporting two crucial Commission’s proposals under the Green Deal – the sustainable use of pesticides regulation and the nature restoration law – over food security concerns.


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