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French farmers call off 'siege of Paris' after winning concessions

French farmers call off 'siege of Paris' after winning concessions

Two French farming unions have called off the “siege of Paris” after securing concessions from the Government with a blockade of major roads around the capital.

The move comes after the French prime minister introduced new measures aimed at protecting their livelihoods, which they described as "tangible progress".

However, activists involved in the protests have said they would stay put for at least another day to see the government put its pledges in writing.

“We don't want to hear words of love. What we want is proof of love," said Thierry Desforges, a union member at a blockade of the A6 highway in Chilly-Mazarin, south of Paris.

An effigy of French President Emmanuel Macron, northwest of Paris (AFP via Getty Images)
An effigy of French President Emmanuel Macron, northwest of Paris (AFP via Getty Images)

Thousands of French farmers have been demonstrating for weeks across the country in protests over low earnings, heavy regulation and what they call unfair competition from abroad.

Similar protests have extended across Europe, including at the European Union headquarters in Brussels, with farmers burning bales of hay, and throwing eggs and fireworks at police.

French Prime Minister Gabriel Attal, whose earlier promises to address farmers' issues had failed to quell the protests, announced a new set of measures on Thursday.

They included tens of millions of euros in aid, tax breaks and a promise not to ban pesticides in France that are allowed elsewhere in Europe - which French farmers say leads to unfair competition.

Mr Attal also said France would immediately ban imports from outside the EU that use a pesticide banned in the bloc.

Arnaud Rousseau, president of France's biggest farmers union FNSEA, and Young Farmers union president Arnaud Gaillot said at a news conference later that they were calling on their members to suspend the protests.

Farmers of the CR47 union gather as their Paris-bound tractor convoy is blocked by the police on their way to block the Rungis market, on the outskirts of Paris (AFP via Getty Images)
Farmers of the CR47 union gather as their Paris-bound tractor convoy is blocked by the police on their way to block the Rungis market, on the outskirts of Paris (AFP via Getty Images)

"We have been heard on a number of points, with tangible progress," Mr Rousseau said, though both unions said they would keep a close eye on whether the government implements its promises by June.

It was unclear if all farmers on France's streets followed the guidance given by the two main unions. Many farmers are not union members.

As Mr Attal spoke, motorways all over France remained blocked by tractors

The government's goals with the newly announced measures are "to give food its value back" and "to boost farmers' income, to protect them against unfair competition and to simplify their daily life", he said.

Mr Attal also announced 150 million euros (£128 million) in aid to livestock farmers and a decrease in taxes on farms being transferred from older generations to younger ones.