Violent farmer protests in the Netherlands

Dutch farmers have expanded their protests against new regulations aimed at reducing nitrogen oxide emissions. On Monday, they blocked access roads to supermarket distribution centres in several places across the country. The umbrella organisation of supermarkets warned of supply shortages on the shelves. The political institutions are now being put to the test, the national press comments.

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NRC Handelsblad (NL) /

Agricultural lobby must not win

NRC Handelsblad columnist Tom-Jan Meeus warns politicians not to give in:

“Any hesitation on the part of a politician tells the farmers and agribusinesses: your blocking tactics pay off. Full of confidence after the appointment of mediator Johan Remkes on the weekend, the farmers' action group Agractie demanded: First take the plans off the table, then we can talk. They are the bosses. No one else. After decades of blockade, livestock farming has caused a triple problem - climate, nature, water. Giving in would be more than a defeat for the politicians. It would mean that the politicians are moving away from the idea that politicians run the country [and not the big farm lobby].”

De Volkskrant (NL) /

Most people not interested

These protests are loud rather than broadbased, writes De Volkskrant columnist Sheila Sitalsing:

“Because big mouths are rewarded by the authorities with conspicuous frequency here, you might think that those shouting loudest are right when they yell that 'no one' trusts the politicians in The Hague anymore. ... In the vast majority of the country, however, there is generally a stable and - compared to the rest of the world - fairly high level of trust in institutions, from the European Union to the press. Most people have no interest in the heated fantasies of civil resistance.”

De Volkskrant (NL) /

Find an antidote now

The riots have gone way too far, De Volkskrant notes:

“This is no longer a normal protest but an attack on democracy. ... There is no simple solution. The most radical farmers are coming together in a cocktail of feelings of injustice, anti-state thinking and a totally alternative idea of reality. Social media play a major role here, and the search for an antidote has barely begun. ... To get the genie back in the bottle the police and the judiciary need to first of all show the protesters where the limits lie.”

NRC Handelsblad (NL) /

Set limits

The state must assert its monopoly on the use of force, NRC Handelsblad also demands:

“This crisis requires stronger leadership. [Prime Minister Mark Rutte] should have reacted much more harshly: made it clear that violence and threats to public order can result in the confiscation of tractors, fines and prison sentences. The Netherlands is in for a big, difficult debate in the next few years about how to restore the destroyed balance between nature and agriculture. ... What the farmers hope to achieve by threatening politicians and blocking motorways is a mystery - it certainly doesn't arouse any sympathy.”