State of the Union: Macron drives aggressive Ukraine agenda as farmers continue protests

French President Emmanuel Macron, centre, with other European leaders at the Elysee Palace in Paris.
French President Emmanuel Macron, centre, with other European leaders at the Elysee Palace in Paris. Copyright Gonzalo Fuentes/Pool via AP
By Isabel Marques da Silva
Share this articleComments
Share this articleClose Button
Copy/paste the article video embed link below:Copy to clipboardCopied

EU leaders are diverging in their rhetoric on Ukraine while also trying to placate farmers angry at cheap grain imports.

ADVERTISEMENT

French President Emmanuel Macron is known for his efforts to promote a more autonomous and relevant European Union in the world.

These efforts sometimes move in sudden and unusual ways – as was the case at a sort of informal leaders' summit in Paris, this week.

Macron wanted to discuss the European response to Russia's aggression in Ukraine as the conflict entered its third year. But his comments about possibly sending European soldiers to help Ukrainian armed forces raised some eyebrows.

"There is no consensus today to send troops into the field in an official and approved manner," he said. "But in terms of momentum, nothing can be ruled out."

The Kremlin's reaction was immediate, warning that such a scenario would lead to an "inevitable" conflict with Russia.

Many Western leaders were also quick to rule it out, from the premiers of several EU member states to the secretary-general of NATO.

Farmers descend on Brussels

Macron's speech came against the background of continued farmers' protests across Europe, as the agriculture sector grows angrier at the combined impacts of Ukrainian grain imports and EU agricultural policies.

In the space of a few weeks, around a thousand tractors have returned to Brussels' so-called European Quarter.

The protesters used manure, burning tires among other things to draw the attention of the gathered EU agriculture ministers.

Responding to the protests, the EU Commission has announced proposals to limit farm imports from Ukraine and loosen environmental regulations on fallow lands.

Tractors drive in formation as they leave the city after a protest of farmers outside a meeting of EU agriculture ministers in Brussels.
Tractors drive in formation as they leave the city after a protest of farmers outside a meeting of EU agriculture ministers in Brussels.Nicolas Landemard/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved

“The Commission believes that by taking this stabilising action, we can help alleviate the pressure that we know our farmers are feeling in order to ensure that they can stay economically viable during these times of high uncertainty," said Maroš Šefčovič, European Commission Vice-President.

EU Agriculture Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski said that Brussels is "hearing very carefully" the voice of the protest movement.

"I can declare that we will take into account this voice in our work. We need the approach based on the 'four-S principle': security, stability, sustainability and solidarity. And it should be included in the future of common agricultural policy.”

But despite the new proposals, the farmers are not convinced – and they are promising to keep up the fight.

Watch the full programme__in the video player above.

Share this articleComments

You might also like

French farmers stop traffic on the Champs-Élysées, while Polish farmers block road to Lithuania

Ukraine war in maps: Kyiv fears Russian advances in summer should it not get more ammunition

Ylva Johansson says Europe's new migration pact is 'a huge achievement'