Tractors Roll Into Downtown Prague as Czech Farmers Join Protests

PRAGUE — Hundreds of Czech farmers drove their tractors into downtown Prague on Monday, disrupting traffic outside the Agriculture Ministry, as they joined protests against high energy costs, stifling bureaucracy and the European Union’s Green Deal.

Farmers across Europe have taken to the streets this year, including in Poland, France, Germany, Spain and Italy, to fight low prices and high costs, cheap imports and EU climate change constraints.

Czech farmers are planning to join protests this week, although major agricultural associations distanced themselves from Monday’s action, in which tractors blocked one lane of a major road through Prague, slowing but not completely snarling traffic.

Several hundred whistling and jeering protesters gathered outside the Agriculture Ministry yelling “Shame” and “Resign”.

“We came today mainly because of the bureaucracy around farming, the paperwork is on the edge of what is bearable,” 28-year-old farmer Lukas Melichovsky said while in the line of tractors.

Another farmer, Vojtech Schwarz, said cheaper imports did not face the same scrutiny as domestic production: “They have a different starting line because we are overseen by a million officials,” he said.

The government has said the organizers of Monday’s demonstration have little to do with real farming.

“Today’s demonstration does not have much in common with the fight for better conditions for farmers,” Prime Minister Petr Fiala said on X social media platform, adding some of its organizers were pro-Russian or had other political aims.

“We are negotiating with those who represent farmers,” Fiala said.

The Agrarian Chamber (AK) plans protests alongside other European farmers at border crossings on Thursday and was not part of Monday’s tractor protest.

Its main complaints are EU farm policy, market distortions and low purchase prices coming from surpluses amid cheap imports from outside the bloc.  

Farmers also complain of costs associated with the EU’s climate change fight laid out in the Green Deal, which sets out agricultural regulations for the bloc’s 27 members for decades.

“Farmers are desperate in this hopeless situation and do not know what they should expect in the near future, let alone the distant one,” AK president Jan Dolezal said last week.  

In Slovakia, farmers were due to protest this week to push the government to help the sector, angry over late subsidies, uneven aid or cheaper non-EU imports, including from Ukraine.  

Tractors took to some streets already on Monday, with TASR news agency reporting farmers had blocked the main border crossing between Ukraine and Slovakia for one hour.

Earlier this month, Polish farmers blocked roads across the country and at border crossings with Ukraine, kicking off a month-long general strike to protest against EU policies.

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