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Macron cancels Saturday debate with farmers as tensions rise

Macron cancels Saturday debate with farmers as tensions rise

Macron cancels Saturday debate with farmers as tensions rise

PARIS — French President Emmanuel Macron will not debate with farmers and green activists on Saturday at the Salon de l’agriculture annual farm kermesse, contrary to initial plans.

The change of plan comes after a spat with French farmers over the participation of green group Soulèvements de la Terre — a climate activist movement known for several clashes with the police and farmers.

Macron announced that the debate was cancelled in a tweet Friday evening.

The Salon, which opens Saturday, is traditionally a key moment for French politics. This year it was meant to be Macron’s opportunity to connect with farmers after weeks of intense protests, which are still ongoing.

Macron’s U-turn follows French farmers’ decision to boycott the debate to protest the invitation to the controversial green group.

During a press briefing on Thursday, the Elysée announced that Soulèvements de la Terre was invited to the debate, despite the fact that last year Macron’s government tried to ban that organization.

Arnaud Rousseau, the head of influential farm lobby FNSEA announced on Thursday that he would not take part in the debate with Macron, adding that inviting Soulèvements de la Terre was a “provocation.” French Agriculture Minister Marc Fesneau on Friday also criticized the invitation.

After the backlash, on Friday Macron’s office tried to avert a crisis, claiming it never invited Soulèvements de la Terre and that Thursday’s announcement was an error.

In order to attend the opening of the Salon and appease French farmers, Macron had even decided to skip a G7 videoconference organized by Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni on the second anniversary of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. That call on Saturday is to include G7 leaders including U.S. President Joe Biden, as well as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

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