European farmers protest trade pact

December 02, 1992|By New York Times News Service

PARIS -- With France busily trying to win allies in its fight against a U.S.-European Community farm-trade agreement, tens of thousands of farmers from across Western Europe filled the streets of the French border city of Strasbourg yesterday to protest the pact.

French farm unions, which contend that the accord will badly damage French agriculture, chose Strasbourg for the day-long demonstration not only because it is the headquarters of the European Parliament, but also because it is within easy reach of German farmers.

Roads leading to the European Parliament and the local U.S. consulate were blocked, but about 200 French farmers clashed with police when they tried to reach the parliament building. They threw paving stones, street signs and metal bars at the police, who responded with tear gas grenades.

Violence also erupted after a mass meeting in a soccer stadium when 100 protesters again clashed with riot policemen. Local officials said several farmers were injured, including one who lost a hand. Some farmers were also injured by firecrackers fired by colleagues during the march to the stadium.

The day began with the burning of an effigy of Carla Hills, the U.S. trade representative, on a bonfire of wood and straw. But most of the 40,000 or so demonstrators heeded government warnings that televised scenes of disorder would damage their cause.

At the stadium, a French farmers' leader, Luc Guyau, warned farmers elsewhere in Europe that they too would be hurt by the farm trade accord.

"Yesterday, some farmers thought they weren't concerned by the consequences," he told the crowd. "But today they understand that no one is safe."

Constantin Heereman, a German farm union leader, said European farmers were being sacrificed to the profits of the United States and some multinational corporations. "We must put an end to their threats and their arrogant blackmail," he said, adding that a new demonstration by European farmers would be held in Bonn on Dec. 8.

Under the farm-trade accord, the community agreed to reduce its exports of subsidized food products by 21 percent and cut back oilseed cultivation by 15 percent. Settlement of the dispute has led to the resumption of long-stalled global trade liberalization negotiations.

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