By: Tanja Brkić (Nova24tv)
Farmers’ frustration at being ignored by the government has sparked a series of demands related to the pressing problems in agriculture, which is why the Slovenian Farmers’ Union organised a peaceful protest rally on Saturday at 1 p.m., at several locations across Slovenia. Before the protest, representatives of the union and some other agricultural NGOs also read out their demands in front of the National Assembly. The speech began with a declaration of the poem “Vstati in obstati” (Stand Up and Stay Standing).
Enough is enough, were the opening words at Saturday’s protest. Anton Medved said that they had been involved in the formulation of agricultural policy, “we have been involved, but very little of what we proposed has been taken into account.” He stressed the importance of farmers in Slovenia and their contribution to Slovenia’s green countryside. “We will not allow this to be destroyed, because there is no going back,” said Anton Medved, who was the first to explain the farmers’ demands and what they expect from the government.
“We have had enough. We demand that the new environmental requirements do not require unrealistic capacities of the farmer, we demand a revision of the re-examination and a reduction of the Nature 2,000 areas, we demand the implementation of the climate and environmental measures that are enshrined in the Strategic Plan for the Common Agricultural Policy in a way that is accessible to farmers, we demand clear and simple implementation conditions and administratively uncomplicated measures, we demand that Slovenia’s food security is a priority, which cannot be subordinated to environmental adventures, we demand that new taxes be halted, we demand that all direct payments and other funds be brought into line with inflation, we demand that the Common Agricultural Policy funds earmarked for agriculture be kept entirely in agriculture or in the agricultural sector. I would like to stress that no political party is behind today’s protest. We will send all the demands to the government today. If they do not accept us within ten days, we will continue our activities,” said Anton Medved.
“We Slovenian farmers did not think that 450 years after the famous Slovenian-Croatian peasant revolt and the Slovenian peasant strike we had 30 years ago, we would have to come before the Slovenian public with such demands. However, the current situation is so critical that we are forced to do this,” said Roman Žveglič, President of the Slovenian Chamber of Agriculture and Forestry, who stressed that these matters concern the national interest and all Slovenians. Žveglič called on everyone to support them by buying Slovenian products and buying locally.
As Alenka Marjetič Žnider, President of the Cooperative Union of Slovenia, said, they all gathered at the protest in the name of 60 agroforestry cooperatives and 13,500 family farms. “It is all of the Slovenian farms that make the Slovenian countryside picturesque, cultivated, populated and socially secure, and our country more food secure. With every farm that is closed down, with every young farmer that is lost, we lose all of these things, but we also lose the knowledge and love of farming that is passed down from generation to generation in these families,” she said. She stressed that Slovenian farms are not the cause but the solution to environmental problems, after which Irena Ule, President of the Slovenian Female Farmers’ Union, pointed out that if there are no farmers, we have to ask ourselves where we will get our food from.
“For years, we have been pointing out the same things, the same problems, and the situation is not getting better, it is getting much worse. I am asking you, how do you imagine that young people will continue to persevere and farm when we are being prevented from developing our farms? We currently have 4.6 percent of young people in our ranks, and we are lagging far behind the European average,” said Anja Magel, President of the Slovenian Rural Youth Alliance, who stressed that young people are essential to the future of agriculture. The last speaker was Branko Tomažič, President of the Commission for Agriculture, Forestry and Food of the National Council, who stressed the importance of self-sufficiency, for which the farmers had already proposed it is enshrined in the Slovenian Constitution. “How will the nation survive if we are not self-sufficient and if we do not grow food at home?” asked Tomažič. He went on to express support for Slovenian farmers by asking the citizens of Slovenia to buy Slovenian products and home-grown products, and to “think locally, because this is the future of the nation, of tradition and of life.”
Farmers are facing new taxes
The protest was mainly motivated by new environmental demands for farmers, said Anton Medved, President of the Slovenian Farmers’ Trade Union. In addition, farmers are facing new taxes, price discrepancies are acute, and they also have lots of problems with wild animals, he pointed out. The peaceful protest, which took place in more than 20 locations across the country, saw farmers driving tractors and carrying banners along local roads or gathering in front of the headquarters of the regional agroforestry institutes.
According to the farmers’ website, the protest took place, among other locations, in Ljubljana – at the Vrbljene hippodrome and at the C0 canal site in the Kleče area, at the Trebnje Agricultural Cooperative, at Supernova in Novo mesto, in Nova vas na Blokah, at two locations in the Ptuj area, in Maribor and at several other locations in the Styrian region, as well as in Prekmurje. The organisers assured that the rallies would be peaceful and that the farmers would not obstruct traffic, and that the protesters would disperse peacefully after about one hour. They also announced that they would step up pressure on Slovenian politics if the representatives of the authorities did not start listening to them.
We also saw lots of responses to the protests on social media. One of the profiles tweeted that the farmers from Maribor wanted to let Prime Minister Golob (whose last name translates to Pigeon) know that larvae should be eaten by pigeons. Another user wrote that we need to free Slovenia from dictatorship and thieves, while a third wrote that if there is no farmer, there is no bread, and there is no nation. “Congratulations and my deep admiration to all farmers who are fighting for land and water! Do not give up on this!”