Anger and chaos: The Dutch farmer protests
The Dutch farmer protests are causing social and political chaos. Who should pay for nitrogen pollution and why is the CDA suddenly changing course?
Protest and disorder: farmers in the Netherlands
Farmers in the Netherlands are fiercely protesting against the new nitrogen pollution policy adopted by the Dutch government. Ever since the cabinet announced its new plans for nitrogen reduction, numerous protests have taken place throughout the Netherlands. Because a large proportion of nitrogen emissions is caused by agriculture and livestock, the goal of reduction is mainly directed at farmers. The new plans will force many Dutch farmers to give up their farming business and way of life.
Ten thousands of farmers have been involved in protests against the new legislation, some of which caused significant disturbances. Many drove their tractors down the highway, despite this being prohibited, causing road blockages and traffic jams. Several people have been arrested for offences like arson and waste dumping on the highway. Farmers set fire to hay bales and left them on the side of the road. Some dumped car tires, trash, and manure in the middle of the road, causing dangerous traffic situations.
Protest and politics: a sudden turnaround
Alongside the chaos on the road, the protests are also causing political turmoil. Christian-oriented political party CDA is quickly losing supporters. The CDA is traditionally considered to be the party for Dutch farmers, who often have a Christian background. But many farmers now feel abandoned by the CDA because it previously agreed to the nitrogen pollution policy as presented in the coalition agreement. For this reason, farmers are withdrawing their political support and deciding to defect to the BBB, a political party that is committed to the interests of the agricultural sector.
In a recent interview, CDA party leader Wopke Hoekstra tried to appease his traditional farmer followers by distancing himself from the nitrogen policy stated in the coalition agreement. He declared that the stated deadline of 2030 for halving the emission of nitrogen is “not holy” and advocates for a restart of the process on nitrogen reduction. Hoekstra’s statement caused a big conflict within the coalition. Marianne van der Wal, the Dutch minister for nature and nitrogen, reacted furiously. Other coalition members were also very displeased.
The Dutch farmer protests show the interplay between fierce protests, the religious background of protesting farmers, and the political turnaround of the CDA. Because many of its political supporters are farmers with a Christian orientation, the CDA is partly dependent on the vote of protesting farmers. Due to the Christian background of many of the protesters, the farmer protests greatly affect the political course of the CDA.
Protests around Europe
The Dutch farmer protest is not the only movement causing widespread public commotion. Over the past few years, many fierce and spirited protests have been occurring throughout Europe. In France, the gilets jaunes (yellow vests) initiated numerous protests against social injustice, economic inequality, and political grievances. Although the movement has diminished in force since its conception in 2018, there have recently been signs of a revival.
During the harshest phases of the COVID-19 pandemic, Europe also saw many protests against anti-COVID policies. These protests were often violent and chaotic. In Brussels, some protesters fiercely opposed the use of COVID passes by throwing fireworks at police officers. In the Netherlands, people protesting the lockdown rules set fire to bicycles and turned violent against the authorities. In Croatia and Austria, protesters took to the streets to resist mandatory vaccination. Some people engaged in protest for religious reasons. In multiple cities in France, for example, Catholics gathered outside churches to urge the government to permit public Masses during the national lockdown.
In recent years, fierce protests as such have been prevalent throughout Europe. It is likely that Europe has not yet seen the end of protesting crowds and chaotic riots, for there are always reasons for discontentment and protesters willing to express it.
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