Over 100 farmers from Central and Eastern Europe protested outside the meeting of EU leaders calling on them to keep their promise and give equal pay for equal work.
The farmers were promised equal EU subsidies to those given to their Western European counterparts back in 2002 but EU leaders have never followed through on this promise.
Supporting the farmers protesting, Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė asked the farmers to stay strong. “It is very good that farmers from all across Central and Eastern Europe are active on this issue. Central and Eastern European farmers are worthy of being seen and treated as equal members of the EU. My message to farmers is this: Stand firm!” she said ahead of the Council meeting and the farmers’ protest outside it.
The farmers from Lithuania, Latvia, Poland, Czech Republic and Slovakia criticised EU leaders for failing to deliver on their promises. As crunch time approaches in the European Council on budget discussions and the Common Agricultural Policy, the farmers are making their voices heard.
Arūnas Svitojus, the President of the Chamber of Agriculture of Lithuania, and lead organiser of the protest said ‘’We have travelled for more than 2 days from Lithuania, Poland, Latvia, Slovakia and Czech Republic all the way to Brussels to make sure that Prime Ministers don’t forget their promise to treat all EU farmers equally. No more will farmers from Central and Eastern Europe accept being paid less than those of the West!’’
The farmers from Central and Eastern Europe have complained that receiving lower grants from the EU than their Western counterparts leaves them at a significant disadvantage. Lina Meilute-Datkuniene, a farmer from Lithuania that travelled to Brussels for the protest said ‘’My costs are constantly going up, just like they are for farmers in the West and I produce for the same consumers as farmers in the West. Where is the Single Market when the EU itself pays farmers in Central and Eastern Europe less than those in Western Europe? This is not acceptable!’’
The farmers demand that direct payments for all farmers be equalised, they also seek equality in the support mechanisms and reduction of administration burden for the farmers in the EU and call on heads of governments of each country to finally fulfil the promises made to farmers back in 2002.