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Italian farmers stage symbolic protest by Rome's Colosseum

AFP
AFP - [email protected]
Italian farmers stage symbolic protest by Rome's Colosseum
Italian farmers drive their tractors in front of Rome's Colosseum on February 9th 2024. Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP

Following weeks of small demonstrations held across the country, Italian farmers took their protest to Rome on Friday, driving a four-tractor convoy past the Colosseum.

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The tractors – one of them green, one white and one red, representing the colours of Italy's national flag – were part of a group of over 500 that have been parked on the northern outskirts of the capital for several days, awaiting permission to enter the city.

The farmers want a formal meeting with PM Giorgia Meloni’s government to discuss their complaints, which range from tax cuts to a review of European Union environmental regulations that they say are damaging their livelihoods.

READ ALSO: Will farmers' protests block Italy's roads on Friday?

"EU policies are putting us in serious difficulty," Elia Fornai, a 26-year-old farmer from Tuscany, told AFP at the camp earlier this week.

"We have no taste for protesting. We want to go home as soon as possible – but with new programmes for a better future for agriculture."

Farmers across Europe have staged protests in recent weeks over shrinking incomes, rising costs and what they say are increasingly onerous environmental rules approved by the 27-nation EU.

Farmers, Rome

Italian farmers drive their tractors in front of Rome's Colosseum in protest against EU agricultural policies and high taxation on February 9th 2024. Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP

The Italian farmers are not a homogenous group, with no one clear leader.

But many complain about imports of food from outside the EU that is not subject to the same regulations, and want tax cuts, including on fuel.

READ ALSO: Tractors converge on Rome as farmers protest across Europe

Meloni has expressed sympathy with the farmers, saying the EU rules are "ideological", but said her government had already taken action to support the industry.

This includes allocating an extra three billion euros from Italy's share of the EU's post-Covid recovery fund to the agriculture sector, thus bringing the total to eight.

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But the government's latest budget did not extend an income tax exemption for farmers that had been in force since 2017.

Economy Minister Giancarlo Giorgetti said on Thursday he was evaluating whether or not to extend it.

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