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State of the Union: Farmers' protests and the defence of democracy

State of the Union: Farmers' protests and the defence of democracy

Farming policy has long been a sensitive issue in the European Union with farmers acquiring a track record of disruptive protests, especially in France, the EU’s biggest agricultural producer.

This week, following similar protests in countries from Germany to Romania, their French colleagues hit the barricades – or rather built barricades.

The protests were over a series of long-standing grievances, including low pay, new environmental regulations and rising energy costs which farmers say put heavy pressure on their business.

Reactions from the political class were cautious and non-committal.

“We are hearing very carefully farmers’ voice and I can declare, that we will take into account this voice in our work," EU Agriculture Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski said.

"We need the approach based on the 'four-S principle': security, stability, sustainability and solidarity. And it should be included in the future of common agricultural policy.”

Right-wing populist parties have seized on the protests and agriculture is now set to be at the heart of their campaigning for the 6-9 June European election.

Hostile foreign interference, hybrid threats and especially disinformation are also expected to play a part in this election, something the European Commission has already said presents a risk to democracy.

“Unchecked malicious content spreads like a cancer and puts the health of our democracy at risk," EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said this week. "Liberal democracies cannot live without the information, without reliable information, and without trust in democratic processes.”

A statement Daphne Caruana Galizia would certainly have agreed with.

A fearless journalist from Malta, she was assassinated more than six years ago for exposing corruption, nepotism, patronage and money laundering.

This week, the European Parliament honored her legacy.

Carrying on the torch is her son Paul who recently published “A Death in Malta”, a book about his mother - and her fight for democracy.

He told Euronews' Maria Psara that years after her death "there are a number of other people who were involved in the attempted cover-up of her murder, who have yet to be charged."

"And for us, it's also important that all the people she wrote about, all the corruption she exposed, all those stories are prosecuted. And we haven't seen anything of that yet," he added.

He also explained that when she was killed, she was facing 47 libel suits and that "under Maltese law, those libel suits have passed onto us as her heirs, the owners of her estate."

"Most were filed by, members of the governing Labour Party and its donors. Now, we didn't see it at the time, I'm embarrassed to say, but if we look back, you can see that there was this escalating, legal harassment against her.

"So, a big part of our campaign has been to address that, address how the courts are used and abused, not to seek justice or not to write wrongs, but to harass journalists in our case," he said.

Watch the full State of the Union programme in the video player above.