"Nichts mehr davon, ich bitt euch. Zu essen gebt ihm, zu wohnen.
Habt ihr die Blöße bedeckt, gibt sich die Würde von selbst."
Friedrich Schiller
  May 2008 FOOD

Fishermen and Farmers Go On Rampage in France Over Oil Prices

The majority of the ports in France, from Brittany down to the Mediterranean, decided to re-launch their strike again yesterday, over their inability to pay the 29% diesel price increase since December. The fishermen are demanding that fuel be no higher than EU40 cents a liter, and not 75 cents as it is now. Under pressure, the French government decided to give 310 million euros in short-term aid, but has to first negotiate with the Brussels EU Commission to make this aid "euro-compatible;" i.e., make sure it is not ruled unfair competition with other European farmers. Barnier has therefore reintroduced this aid in the category of "emergency aid" permitted, in the Commission's jargon, to people as "individualized social aid." At this point Barnier is still negotiating with the Commission. Obviously, this is just a short-term band-aid, which is why the fisherman have continued to strike.

As of yesterday, the strike was restarted in the majority of the ports. In the Channel and the Mediterranean area, and including La Rochelle--one of Europe's major fishing ports--more than 10 ports have gone on a 48-hour strike. In Brittany, the strike spread like wildfire, with ports like Guilvinec, the first artisanal fishing port of France, and Saint Brieuc heading the action. Some of the tactics involve blocking highways and oil refineries. Fishermen and farmers blocked a four-lane highway yesterday between Rennes and Saint Brieux, and in the Normandy port of Le Havre, actions are underway to block the Total refinery and other oil depots in the area.

The strike has a desperate and dangerous character as well. In some areas, the fishermen are pouring fuel on the fish; in other areas of Brittany, fisherman have carried out raids against companies importing fish from the developing sector, in the form of blocks which are then used for food products in Europe. Cite Marine, one the main companies doing this, and some of its subsidiaries, were all targetted with these operations, with fishermen destroying tons of frozen fish and showing it to others as a war trophy.

Following a meeting over the weekend in Ancona, Italy fishermen from four countries--Portugal, Italy, France and Spain--decided to extend the strike to their own countries, and are considering a demonstration in Brussels, on Friday.