Spanish farmers protest for EU subsidies
(MADRID) - Farmers demonstrated in Madrid on Thursday against an overhaul of the European Union's agricultural policy in which they fear losing hundreds of millions of euros in subsidies each year.
Hundreds of protesters, some dressed as cows and others in the orange T-shirts of their Union of Small Farmers which organised the demonstration, blew whistles and set off firecrackers as they marched through the streets of the Spanish capital.
The farmers fear that subsidies from the European Union will be cut at a time when their revenues have fallen due to the economic crisis.
"We are dressed up as cows because this is all just a circus of politicians. For us they make even more cuts, they leave us with nothing," said one protester who marched along with three others dressed in white overalls with black spots.
The protest was held as leaders of the 27-nation European Union gathered in Brussels to negotiate the bloc's 2014-2020 budget.
The European Union's common agricultural policy consumes about 40 percent of the bloc's overall budget, making it the largest single area of its spending.
The European Commission has proposed reducing the budget for the policy to 390 billion euros ($520 billion) for the 2014-2020 period from the about 420 billion euros in 2007-2013.
European Union president Herman Van Rompuy has proposed the budget be cut even further, to around 372 billion euros in 2014-2020.
Van Rompuy's proposal would lead to a reduction of around 20 percent in European Union subsidies to farmers, said the secretary general of the Union of Small Farmers, Lorenzo Ramos.
"Concretely for agriculture, in the case of Spain, it could be an annual cut of 600 to 800 million euros," he told AFP.
Farmers are also concerned that changes to the common agriculture policy will allow all landowners to receive subsidies and not just farmers.
"It's unfair. They will take away money from those who live off the land and give it to those who do not need it like the Duchess of Alba," said Juan Jesus Andres, a 60-year-old farmer, referring to one of Spain's richest landowners.