The issue has become a lightning rod for the right as next year’s vote approaches.
Agriculture is shaping up to be a key issue in the upcoming European elections. The centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) has been closing ranks on the issue.
This week, it organised a conference in the European Parliament on the subject. This came days after the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen, who hails from the EPP, used her annual State of the Union address to send a direct message of thanks to Europe’s farming community.
“Today I would like to pay tribute to our farmers and thank them for ensuring our food supply day after day,” she said.
But MEPs are under no illusions about this recent change of tone.
Benoît Biteau, a French Green MEP, argues that the only reason she is now choosing to focus on the farming community is her desire to remain Commission chief for a second term.
“She is completely in an electoral process where she is once again trying to rally her political family around her with the aim of being able, I imagine, to serve a second term as President of the Commission,” Biteau told Euronews.
“And we saw that the EPP, at its congress almost two months ago, put the issue of agriculture at the heart of its agenda. In fact, we saw a strong offensive on the agricultural issue when the EPP congress returned.”
According to some analysts, the agricultural world is welcoming the words of the Commission President. After major crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine, the sector is in turmoil.
Luc Vernet, Secretary General of Farm Europe, said in an interview that many people are taking notice of the issue.
“Sentiment about food, agriculture and rural life goes far beyond the agricultural vote,” Vernet told Euronews.
“And we can see in a number of countries that the messages conveyed by the farming community are messages that resonate far beyond and throughout society as a whole.
“So we can clearly see that today there is a farming debate that is obviously very strong in rural areas, but which also resonates in urban areas. We’ve seen this in the Netherlands, but we’re also seeing it in Germany, Italy and France.”
To please these voters, the EPP has for several months been striking blows at the EU’s Green Deal.
Many in the agriculture sector see it and the environmental policies it contains as damaging their livelihoods, or at least hitting them too hard and too fast.
Faced with this kind of volatility, the EPP is now seeking to consolidate its base before next year’s election.
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