If you're planning to leave or arrive in Paris on Thursday, Nov. 21, you might want to reconsider your travel plans, as infuriated French farmers are planning a blockade of the main streets of the capital.
Led by France’s main agricultural union, the FNSEA, the farmers announced on Monday, Nov. 18, that they plan to block all major routes in and out of the city. The reason? A protest against the rising taxes and regulations affecting farmers, including a planned increase of VAT (value-added tax) from 7 to 20 percent in some industries.
"We’re absolutely sick of it — regulations, checks, taxes, the ecotax, the hike in VAT, it’s all piling up," French farmer Pierre Bot told Europe 1 radio, The Local reports. Bot told Europe 1 that the farmers will bring tractors, horses, trucks, and agriculture supplies with them into the city center of Paris, blocking all the major streets. "This was the only solution we could find to make ourselves heard," said Bot.
The protest in Paris is part of a continuing trend of mass disruption and protests around the country. In the mainly agricultural Brittany region of France, demonstrations by people in the agriculture and road transport industry have been taking place for the past few weeks. Blocking major motorways and destroying speed radars and metal toll gates, the riots were a protest against the proposed ecotax (a tax on commercial vehicles carrying cargo more than 3.5 tonnes). The protests led to French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault’s decision to suspend the ecotax until a "discussion" could be held with the protesters.
But the farmers and road workers are not backing down, demanding a full suspension of the planned new tax, as they fear it would cripple the agricultural section. On Saturday Nov. 16 around 2,000 trucks caused traffic disruption in several French cities including Paris, Strasbourg, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Marseille, Lyon and Lille. In Dijon, 2,000 protestors brought horses and ponies to protest against the planned tax hike on the horse-section of agriculture.
Thursday’s planned blockade in Paris is the next move by the frustrated farmers, who are ready to stand up against the Socialist-led government.
The French newspaper Midi Libre even went as far as saying that France was a country "on the brink of a social explosion," The Local reports.