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The farmers' protests should be taken seriously by Europe's leadership

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The farmers' protests should be taken seriously by Europe's leadership

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent in any way the editorial position of Euronews.

The ability of enraged minorities to act should not be underestimated, as this poses significant political and electoral risks — the past few weeks have proven it, Radu Magdin writes.

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It doesn’t require a sophisticated political observer or analyst to recognise that an unprecedented number of Europe’s farmers have taken to the streets.

In this super-electoral year, with European elections scheduled for the beginning of June, they are seeking to capitalise on the political opportunity. 

Strategically, this is the best time to express their grievances and to compel politicians to pay close attention to what they have to say. 

The farmers are maximising their chances of success, so we should not be too harsh in condemning their tactics, even though their approach is causing headaches in many European cities and capitals.

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It would be a mistake to solely focus on the repertoires of protests, on what the farmers can do to make their claim-making more convincing and vivid for those witnessing the protests and being, more or less, affected by them. 

Regardless of how many memes one could see on social media, or AI-generated images with straw bales surrounding the Eiffel Tower, this is more than an aesthetic exercise. 

An invitation to an honest discussion

Many European farmers, especially the small ones and those part of family farms, are suffering. 

For them, this activity is part of their identity, and they find it increasingly hard to survive economically in a world where every input is getting more expensive, forcing them to reduce margins to the point that profit becomes a chimaera. 

Furthermore, this entire episode should be seen as more than an attempt to negotiate from a position of strength under the threat that farmers (and the rural world in general) will abandon their conservative or centre-right voting proclivities to boost the chances of the radical right in this consequential year.

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So, in a normal world, these events should be an invitation to honest discussion and decisions, for well-thought-out policies, and for genuine engagement that is more than photo-ops and kicking the can down the road until the polls have closed. 

When looking at these protests, the instinct is to be sympathetic to these people’s demands and to wonder whether this is not part of a bigger trend, of various groups feeling left behind and alienated. 

So, one is right to wonder, who will be next? Who will put more pressure on the European and national elite? How politicians will respond to the farmers’ predicament and grievances will, in no small part, determine what will happen.

It’s time for appeasement, not escalation

Apparently, a rational perspective would start with the figures. Thus, as many have already pointed out, agriculture accounts for only 1.4% of the EU’s GDP, 4.2% of the EU’s employment, and 14.3% of the EU’s greenhouse gas emissions, while, at the same time, receiving approximately 30% of the EU budget. 

In the context of the EU’s quest for climate neutrality, Green Deal implementation, and fighting climate change in general, farmers should not pose too much of a problem, at least when considering these numbers. 

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However, the reality is much more nuanced, and we should approach all this from a different angle, taking into account political inequality, responsiveness, and the willingness to act by those who feel betrayed by their representatives.

Following the farmers’ mini-uprising, we have seen the national governments rushing to adopt agriculture-friendly policies, and the EU making serious concessions that could be seen as a major watering down of the Green Deal and the farm-to-fork strategy. 

All of a sudden, in a key electoral year, every decision-maker has become risk-averse. A few days ago, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen praised the farmers’ “remarkable resilience” and announced that “the farmers can count on European support.” 

Moreover, she launched “strategic dialogues,” whose goal is to address the demands of those working on the land. 

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These are all positive developments, and the European and national leaders should be commended for understanding where public opinion stands and that this is the time for negotiation and appeasement, and not for escalation.

Bringing the elites back to earth

At the same time, all these events emphasise a very reactive political establishment. Rather than bet on the farmers’ lack of reaction and be surprised to find them in Brussels, in front of Europe’s key institutions, a visionary (or even re-election-minded) politician would have been able to anticipate all these events. 

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Obviously, we do not ask politicians to predict the future or become super-forecasters. However, there is a clear need for them to get better at understanding the consequences of the policies they propose. 

A key lesson here is that it matters less the overall positive effects of regulation; what triggers mobilisation and action are the distributional effects, and these have to be significantly better estimated so that the likely losers are swiftly and adequately compensated. 

The ability of enraged minorities to act should not be underestimated, as this poses significant political and electoral risks — the past few weeks have proven it. 

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For all those who love the European Union, an image one could distil from these protests is that of the political elites so far removed from the public that they had to be brought back to earth to understand what is really happening under their watch.

A correct diagnosis and a cure to follow

Insufficient impact assessment, inattention to distributional consequences, and unresponsiveness are some of the political pathologies we have observed these days. Hopefully, after a correct diagnosis, a (political) cure will follow. 

More focus on the small farmers, on family businesses, and on how Europe should preserve and enhance its food security are all part of the serious conversation that should follow what is happening on Europe’s main streets, from Brussels to Bucharest, from Paris to Rome. 

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Before blaming the populists for taking advantage of these events, we should all engage in some perspective-taking and ask ourselves what could be done so that farmers and other similar categories will return to normal politics and claim-making. 

We need to make politics and decision-making a bit more boring but significantly much more responsive to the public’s needs.

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Radu Magdin is CEO of Smartlink and former advisor to prime ministers of Romania (2014-2015) and Moldova (2016-2017).

At Euronews, we believe all views matter. Contact us at view@euronews.com to send pitches or submissions and be part of the conversation.

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The voice of EU citizens 100 days before elections

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The voice of EU citizens 100 days before elections

The European elections will take place from 6 to 9 June, when EU citizens will vote for the members of the European Parliament.

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The European elections are now only 100 days away. 

Between 6 to 9 June, EU citizens will be able to cast their vote for the next members of the European Parliament, who will then represent them for the next five years. 

The vote comes at a time when the 27-member bloc faces several crises, including the war in Ukraine, inflation, and energy policies. Voters have different priorities for what they expect from the next European Parliament. 

Euronews took to the streets of Brussels to find out if Europeans know when the elections will take place. Historically, turnout has been consistently growing since 2004, when it was 45.47. In 2019, it was 50.66

Watch the full report in the player above to find out more about how Europeans feel about the incoming elections.

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Millennials Will Become the ‘Richest Generation in History,’ a New Report Says

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Millennials Will Become the ‘Richest Generation in History,’ a New Report Says

It looks like millennials will be able to buy houses after all. 

Those born between 1980 and 1994 are set to become part of the richest generation in history, according to the latest Wealth Report by U.K. real estate agency Knight Frank. The group can expect a “seismic” windfall over the next two decades, as $90 trillion of assets move between generations in the U.S. alone.

“When the silent generation (born from 1925 to 1945), the baby boomers (1946 to 1964), and the oldest cohort of Generation X (1965 to 1979), die, £2.5 trillion (roughly $3.1 million) in wealth tied up in their homes will be freed up,” the report reads.

In addition to property, the shares, bonds, and assets previous generations have accumulated will go to millennials. This transfer of equity will make the generation wealthier than all their predecessors.

However, many millennials have been affected by the economic headwinds created by the 2007 financial crisis, the pandemic, Brexit, and the invasion of Ukraine. Some are riddled with economic anxiety and need to work multiple jobs to pay bills. As such, any influx of cash would likely be spent on buying homes, paying off student loans, creating a pension pot, and building credit. It is also worth pointing out that inheritance is largely determined by a family’s financial status, e.g. those with rich parents stand to gain the most.

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The massive transfer of wealth could have an equally massive impact on society. Liam Bailey, global head of research at Knight Frank, believes younger generations will actively seek out greener homes, eco-friendly goods, and sustainable investments. Given their track record, he could be right. Millennials and Gen Z are leading the charge in climate change activism, the Pew Research Center reports. Both are talking more about environmental issues than older adults, taking to social media to mobilize and enact change.

It appears the financial shift is already underway, too. Knight Frank’s research found that 75 percent of millennials expect their wealth to increase in 2024, compared to 53 percent in the baby boomer generation, 56 percent in gen X, and 69 percent in the younger gen Z.

The future is looking slightly brighter—for millennials, at least.

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Drug addict used bizarre object in attempted post office robbery: police

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Drug addict used bizarre object in attempted post office robbery: police

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A drug addict tried to steal money through a security screen using a large spoon, British police reported. 

CCTV footage from the Hyson Green Post Office in Nottingham on Feb. 10 showed Jelanie Scott, 36, who leaned on crutches, in the corner of the room trying to get under the protective screen. 

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The staff quickly noticed him as he used a spoon and reached through the small gap at the bottom of the security screen on the counter. The panic alarm triggered, and smoke filled the post office as Scott fled.

“There was overwhelming evidence in this case, and I am pleased Scott has been held to account for his actions,” Sgt. Mark Southgate of the City Central neighborhood police team in Nottinghamshire said.

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Photo of the spoon used by Jelanie Scott, 36, to try to steal money at the Hyson Green Post Office side-by-side with CCTV screenshot of Scott. (Nottinghamshire Police )

“He told officers it was a stupid thing to do, and I hope he now reflects on his behavior and stays out of trouble,” Southgate said.

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Nottinghamshire police arrested Scott and charged him with attempted burglary. The Nottingham Magistrates’ Court on Feb. 21 then sentenced him to a six-month drug rehabilitation program and fined him fees and court costs totaling £283 (around $360). 

3 MEN CHARGED WITH TERRORISM PLOT IN UK COURT AFTER RIGHT-WING EXTREMISM PROBE

Nottingham post office

Hyson Green Post Office in Nottingham, England, where Jelanie Scott, 36, tried to steal money.

Scott appeared to have suffered some injury to his foot, hopping away with one crutch to support him as he escaped the building along with other customers when the smoke filled the room. 

Police had an easy time identifying Scott since he dropped his debit card before he managed to flee in a taxi. Police recognized him from CCTV and arrested him just a week later after locating him on a town road.

NORTHERN IRELAND JUDGE RULES THAT UK GOVERNMENT’S ‘TROUBLES’ LAW BREACHES HUMAN RIGHTS

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Nottingham police crime

Police officer on Ilkeston Road, Nottingham, on June 14, 2023. (Jacob King/PA Images via Getty Images)

Scott pleaded guilty and admitted to the crimes, saying he had suffered mental anguish and had taken drugs – cocaine and heroin – shortly before the incident. 

Shoplifting and thefts in the U.K. have increased in recent months, according to the New York Times. One shop owner told the Times that he has to deal with three or four robberies a day, saying, “It’s like the Wild West out there at the moment.” 

The article claimed that opportunistic shoplifters, marauding teenagers, drug addicts and organized gangs have largely driven the looting surge. 

Shoplifting incidents increased by 25% for the year ending June 2023, according to official crime data from the British Office for National Statistics. 

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