Early in the morning on June 20, farmers from around Slovakia finished their two-day drive around the country, pointing out their problems that nobody deals with, by arriving in the capital, the Sme daily wrote.
Key demands presented by the protesting farmers include ensuring that land administered by the Slovak Land Fund is given over for tilling preferentially to local, young and small farmers, and that the Agricultural Payment Agency allocates subsidies only to farmers with a legal relationship to the land in question, the TASR newswire wrote. Farmers mostly from eastern Slovakia are complaining that the land they previously tilled was at some point shadily transferred to organised groups, which did not even refrain from using physical threats to achieve their goals. Allegedly, it seemed that these groups also had the backing of local authorities.
Initially, they were in a good mood and relaxed on June 20 until police refused to let them out from the parking lot to the centre of Bratislava en mass. Earlier, farmers gave an ultimatum to Prime Minister Peter Pellegrini (of the ruling Smer party), waiting until noon to receive the specific date of audience. If they did not receive an answer by then, they would all drive in protest across the downtown capital. About 50 tractors would probably cause a traffic collapse, according to the daily.
PM refused to meet farmers
The original plan, to make protest drives around Bratislava, was marred when police refused to let them all out at the same time, allowing only smaller groups to go at time.
Thus, tensions grew. Ultimately, one group moved in front of the Government Office to wait for Pellegrini’s decision, Sme wrote.
Media gradually informed that the PM recommended Agriculture Minister Gabriela Matečná changed her schedule so she could meet with them.
Farmers only want PM
“We are not interested in Matečná anymore; we have come because of Pellegrini and have nothing to say to the minister,” Lucia Gallová, president of the Vidiecka Platforma / Rural Platform, said in reaction to the PM’s statement, as cited by Sme.
Pellegrini stressed that he has asked Matečná to “meet only farmers, real people who are doing business on their land”, as he can see many people around them representing various NGOs who have nothing to do with agriculture. “The vice-premier (and agriculture minister) should receive only farmers today. She won’t meet any representatives of NGOs who have nothing to do with farming. I’ll consider what to do next based on the results of their talks,” Pellegrini added for TASR.
The PM sent the message that because the protesters were “people who probably do not even know how to sow maize”, he saw no reason to meet with them. Meanwhile, President Andrej Kiska offered to meet them. Thus, three tractors and several farmers appeared in the courtyard of the presidential palace around 14:00. After meeting them, Kiska stated the government should do more for the agriculture and the farmers, and promised to check, through his advisers, how he could help them, Sme wrote.
Meeting with minister
Finally, Matečná planned to meet the farmers at 16:00, and after some negotiations, the organisers wanted to come to the ministry on tractors. However, police refused to let them all leave, citing the traffic collapse and anger of Bratislava drivers as the reason, so only five tractors drove to the Agriculture Ministry while the remaining farmers walked there, effectively blocking the traffic on the Old Bridge for trams.
After they arrived at the ministry, no meeting took place: farmers refused to send their selected representatives to Matečná and the minister refused to come out and meet them. At an ensuing press conference, she announced – as quoted by Sme – that of the so-called Košice Appeal from the end of April, 11 points have been fulfilled, five are being prepared, and three cannot be implemented.
Farmers promised that they will not leave the capital unless they meet with PM Peter Pellegrini. “We have enough food – Bratislava has taken care of us well, and so we are okay here for now,” they joked, as quoted by the daily.
21. Jun 2018 at 5:33 | Compiled by Spectator staff