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Thailand ‘salesman’ PM says kingdom ‘open for business,’ sees huge potential in KSA

Exclusive Thailand ‘salesman’ PM says kingdom ‘open for business,’ sees huge potential in KSA
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Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin, center, greeted tourists in Bangkok’s Chinatown on the day of Chinese New Year — a major celebration. (AN photo by Abdulrahman Fahad bin Shulhub)
Exclusive Thailand ‘salesman’ PM says kingdom ‘open for business,’ sees huge potential in KSA
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Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin (L) spoke to ż Editor-in-Chief Faisal J. Abbas at a Starbucks in Bangkok’s Chinatown on Saturday, Chinese New Year. (AN photo by Abdulrahman Fahad bin Shulhub)
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Updated 11 February 2024

Thailand ‘salesman’ PM says kingdom ‘open for business,’ sees huge potential in KSA

Thailand ‘salesman’ PM says kingdom ‘open for business,’ sees huge potential in KSA
  • Srettha Thavisin says it is his job to travel and 'sell' Thailand to the world
  • Praises Saudi reforms, notes opportunities to expand ties
  • Calls on world leaders to secure ceasefire in Gaza

BANGKOK: Nothing is perhaps more symbolic of the delicate balance Thailand manages between East and West than the Thai prime minister proposing that ż interviews him at the local Starbucks, in Chinatown, on the day of Chinese New Year — a major celebration.

But then again Srettha Thavisin is not your typical politician. Before becoming prime minister, he was a successful businessman who is known to run his schedule like a Swiss clock. In fact, he immediately ignites the conversation by saying that his job is to “sell Thailand,” something he says did not happen in the past, but now — nearly six months into the job — the property tycoon-turned-politician says his top priority is to travel and tell the world that his country is open for business.
“People don’t know the business scene in Thailand because, for the last nine, ten years, Thailand hasn’t been going out to sell Thailand. But since taking over the office (in August last year), the top, top priority for me is to travel and tell the world that Thailand is open for business,” he said.

“Whether it’s for investment, whether it’s for trade, whether people exchange like tourism, like education, technical assistance.”

This is no exaggeration (or you can say because the proof is in the pudding, or should I say, rice pudding), Srettha came to the meeting in a red T-shirt, the traditional color for Chinese New Year. As we walked out of the American coffee house into the bustling China Town, he was swarmed by tourists and locals alike, some Chinese, some Europeans and many Thai people. A Danish family left feeling very happy having managed to take an unexpected selfie with the kingdom’s prime minister.




Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin spoke to ż Editor-in-Chief Faisal J. Abbas at a Starbucks in Bangkok’s Chinatown on Saturday, Chinese New Year. (AN photo by Abdulrahman Fahad bin Shulhub)

Srettha jokes as he refers to a local tradition saying that you must not work on Chinese New Year. But he jokes: “People say that if you work on Chinese New Year, you have to work hard all year. But I’ve been working. (And) every year, when I take a New Year’s Day off, I still have to work hard every day.”

When asked how Thailand manages to balance its East and West ties, particularly as China (its second-biggest trade partner and which has an ethnic component and cultural influence) does not get along with the US (Bangkok’s top trade partner and which also cooperates on security), he says: “Of course, because we are a neutral country. We’re not in conflict with anyone here. You see Eastern Europeans, you see Russians and you see the Chinese, you see the Indians, you see Japanese, you see the Koreans, you see Europeans, you see Americans.

“Because (of the way) our diplomatic standing is, we are not part of the conflict. We believe in lasting peace and common prosperity.”




Thai PM Srettha Thavisin was part of the ASEAN delegation in the meeting of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and Association of Southeast Asian Nations leaders in Riyadh last October. For PM Srettha, his top priority is to travel and tell the world that his country is open for business.
(SPA photo)

Highlighting the advantages of investing in his country, Srettha said attracting skilled expatriate workers requires the provision of good amenities.

“It’s very important for the business people,” he said. “For example, good international schools. Expatriates, like yourself, when you come, you come with families. Where do your kids go to school? You need to make sure you have excellent international schools.”

As a former businessman, he is clear-eyed on where major opportunities lie, and one country tops the list: ż. In fact, this interview with ż was originally requested to mark the second anniversary of the reestablishment of Saudi-Thai relations, which were suspended from the early 1990s until January 2022 due to a diplomatic incident.

Since the reconciliation, the relationship has seen massive improvement, with new trade, investment and people-to-people exchanges. However, Srettha says there is great potential for deeper ties, having been very impressed by what he saw during a visit to the Kingdom last October.




Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman met Thailand's Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin on the sidelines of the GCC-ASEAN Summit in Riyadh on October 20, 2023. (SPA/File photo)

“I met with SABIC,” he said. “They want to do all the agricultural things. I met with Aramco, the world’s largest oil company. I met with the PIF, the sovereign wealth fund. I met with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

“I was stunned by the scale of what you are trying to do and by the potential of what the country has. Again, the cross-border investment that you have made throughout the world is something for the world to admire and copy.

“You don’t just have the financial might. You have the ability to read what you don’t have and try to make it secure for your country. Like, for example, food security is very important.

“The logistics, The Line (NEOM’s signature project), the Riyadh airport — your airport will be twice as big as Dubai airport in the next 10 years. I mean, that’s admirable. Just, you know, it really is.”

Noting ż’s environmental policies, including the Saudi Green Initiative, which has set out to plant 10 billion trees across the Kingdom over the coming years, Srettha said this is an area where Thailand can offer support — including the export of saplings for replanting.




ż's greening project targets growing 10 billion trees under the Saudi Green Initiative. (Supplied)

One thing Thailand exports a lot of is manpower. Thai workers are found throughout the world across many sectors and are noted for their strong work ethic and friendliness. There are currently about 8,000 Thai workers in ż. The warming of relations means this number could quickly rise.

According to him, the recent escalation of the Israeli-Hamas conflict has badly shaken one of the most lucrative markets for skilled Thai labor, i.e. Israel. During the Hamas-led attack on southern Israel on Oct. 7 last year, about 1,200 people were killed, including at least 39 Thai nationals. The militants took some 240 hostage, including 32 Thai workers.

So far, 23 of them have been released in a separate hostage deal between Thailand and Hamas, mediated by third parties. Srettha wants the remaining hostages to be freed.

“Are we part of the conflict? We’re not part of the conflict. All we want is peace and common prosperity. All we want is safety for our people. All we want is the release of the remaining eight hostages. To this point, we still don’t know whether they are alive,” he said.

“Are we to be blamed? No. We went in there to help grow the economy. They’re not spies. They were in the field.”




Thailand's Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin is seen on a display monitor as he speaks to the Thai nationals released by their Hamas captors as they arrived at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport on Nov. 30, 2023. (AFP/File)

Despite the harm caused to Thai nationals in the Oct. 7 attack, Thailand has joined other nations in calling on Israel to halt its retaliatory campaign in the Gaza Strip, sticking firmly to its policy of neutrality.

“We want a ceasefire,” said Srettha. “(When I speak to world leaders, I ask them): ‘How can the conflict be ended?’

“How can we talk about green energy? How can we talk about economic development? How can you talk about trade and commerce when people are dying? I mean, that’s just not right. It’s just not right.”

And this is not the only regional conflict where Thai workers have found themselves in need of extraction. When the crisis erupted in Sudan on April 15 last year, ż opened its airspace to allow the Royal Thai Airforce to evacuate its citizens from the war-torn East African country.

“We’re grateful for that,” said Srettha.




In this photo taken on March 3, 2022, Saudi officials welcome Thai pilgrims who arrived in Jeddah’s King Abdulaziz International Airport on board the first Saudia plane to fly directly from Thailand to ż after a three-decade hiatus. (X: @HajMinistry)

Around 5 percent of Thailand’s population is Muslim. Every year, thousands of Thai nationals travel to ż to perform the Hajj pilgrimage. This continued even during the long years of severed ties between the two countries.

“There were many, many millions of people going over to Makkah,” said Srettha.

Thai Muslims who spoke to ż say they would like the government to increase the quota of pilgrims permitted to travel to ż for the pilgrimage and the number of flights on offer.

“I am not aware that they don’t have enough quotas. Obviously, they have their flights already there. Being a government that comes from the people, we need to listen to what people need,” he said.




Prime Minister Srettha received a gift of dates from ż Editor-in-Chief Faisal J. Abbas after an interview at a Starbucks in Bangkok’s Chinatown on Saturday, Chinese New Year. (AN photo by Abdulrahman Fahad bin Shulhub)

The Muslim-majority southern provinces of Thailand have seen decades of unrest. As a result, Srettha says his government is working to bolster the local economy of the south to encourage stability.

“If you have been following Thailand for a long time, in the deep south there has been a problem, about the three or four provinces of the deep south, there has been some trouble lately,” he said.

“I would like to see more people that live in a rural area get more income from agricultural products.”

Srettha says he wants citizens to enjoy more personal freedoms and greater prosperity.

“Generally, the well-being of the people,” he said. “More money in the pocket. Free your heart to do what they want, be who they want to be.”


’Uncommitted’ voters angry over Gaza test Biden’s support in Michigan

’Uncommitted’ voters angry over Gaza test Biden’s support in Michigan
Updated 9 sec ago

’Uncommitted’ voters angry over Gaza test Biden’s support in Michigan

’Uncommitted’ voters angry over Gaza test Biden’s support in Michigan
  • Many in Michigan’s Arab American community who supported Biden in 2020 are now outraged, along with some progressive Democrats, over Biden’s support for Israel’s Gaza offensive in which tens of thousands of Palestinians have been killed
  • Michigan turnout for Trump rival Nikki Haley, who won nearly 40 percent of Republican votes in her home state of South Carolina on Saturday, could offer signs about the number of Republicans who harbor doubts about a second four-year Trump term

DEARBORN, Michigan: President Joe Biden’s support for Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza was being put to the test on Tuesday in Michigan, home to a large Arab American constituency where Democratic voters were urged to mark their primary ballots as “uncommitted” in protest.
Biden, a Democrat, and Republican former President Donald Trump were expected to easily win their separate party primaries. But the vote count for both was being closely watched for signs of wavering support.
Michigan is expected to play a decisive role in the head-to-head Nov. 5 US presidential election. It is a battleground state that could swing toward either party. Biden beat Trump in Michigan by just 2.8 percentage points in the 2020 election.
Voting sites begin closing at 8 p.m. ET (0100 GMT Wednesday) with the final locations closing an hour later.
Many in Michigan’s Arab American community who supported Biden in 2020 are now outraged, along with some progressive Democrats, over Biden’s support for Israel’s Gaza offensive in which tens of thousands of Palestinians have been killed.
Six voters Reuters interviewed at a polling place on Tuesday in Dearborn — a liberal city that is the epicenter of the pushback against Biden’s Israel strategy — said they were voting uncommitted. Another said he was voting for Trump.
But in Detroit, Michigan’s largest city, most Democrats interviewed said they would stick with Biden despite misgivings about his Israel policy, because of their dislike for Trump or Republican policies on abortion rights.
Late on Monday, Biden said Israel had agreed to halt military activities in Gaza for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan expected to begin on the evening of March 10, as Hamas studied a draft for a truce that includes a prisoner-hostage exchange.
It should have happened sooner, said Michael Bristol, 21, a student at Wayne State University who said he cast an uncommitted vote.
Engage Action and Listen to Michigan say they’re aiming for 10 percent of Michigan’s Democratic primary voters to mark their ballots that way, a symbolically significant 10,000 votes – about equal to Democrat Hillary Clinton’s loss in Michigan to Trump in the 2016 presidential election.
Democrats, overall, support Biden’s handling of the Israel-Hamas conflict by 61 percent, February polling by Harvard-Harris shows.
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer and other Democrats have warned that if Democratic voters abandon Biden, they could hand the swing state and the country back to Trump in November. Biden defeated Trump in the 2020 election.
A senior Biden campaign official said: “We’re taking this seriously. The president himself has said repeatedly that he hears these demonstrators and that he thinks that their cause is important.”
On Feb. 1, Biden won a strong pledge of support from union autoworkers, a Michigan voting bloc no less crucial to his reelection bid. The state is home to nearly 20 percent of all US auto production, more than any state in the country.
“We are going to keep highlighting the contrast between Biden and Trump and once that becomes clear, we fully expect these voters, who have walked away from Biden, to come back,” said LaShawn English, UAW Director Region 1, which represents eight counties in Michigan.

DUELING REPUBLICAN CONTESTS
Michigan turnout for Trump rival Nikki Haley, who won nearly 40 percent of Republican votes in her home state of South Carolina on Saturday, could offer signs about the number of Republicans who harbor doubts about a second four-year Trump term.
Michigan’s Republican Party, beset by internal turmoil, will allocate some delegates to the party’s July convention based on Tuesday’s primary results.
Rival factions are holding dueling party meetings on Saturday that will award the bulk of the delegates. It was unclear, however, which results will be official, although Trump was expected to handily win both sets of Saturday’s votes.
Opinion polls show Trump holding an average statewide lead of nearly 57 percentage points over Haley, according to the poll tracking website FiveThirtyEight.
Still, the results in Michigan will be watched to see how much Trump struggles to attract large numbers of moderates and traditional Republicans, voters he will likely need to win back the White House in November.
Despite having lost to Trump in every primary race, Haley has performed well with moderate voters and has vowed to carry on despite having no clear path to the nomination.
“I’m not going to stop when 70 percent of Americans say they don’t want Donald Trump or Joe Biden,” Haley told CNN on Tuesday. “We’re gonna give them an option.”

 


‘Israel must do more’ to aid Palestinians, US says as UN again warns famine is imminent in Gaza

‘Israel must do more’ to aid Palestinians, US says as UN again warns famine is imminent in Gaza
Updated 23 min 24 sec ago

‘Israel must do more’ to aid Palestinians, US says as UN again warns famine is imminent in Gaza

‘Israel must do more’ to aid Palestinians, US says as UN again warns famine is imminent in Gaza
  • American envoy Robert Wood also tells Security Council Israel must not proceed with any major incursion into the southern city of Rafah
  • Slovenia’s permanent representative to the UN, Samuel Zbogar, says: ‘Only an immediate and permanent ceasefire can avert the risk of famine’

NEW YORK CITY: The US on Tuesday urged Israel to ensure existing border crossings into Gaza remain open so that humanitarian aid can enter the territory, facilitate the opening of additional crossings to meet the growing humanitarian needs of Palestinians, and to support the rapid and safe delivery of relief supplies to vulnerable people throughout the enclave.
“Simply put, Israel must do more,” said Robert Wood, US alternate representative to the UN for special political affairs.
He also warned that any major Israeli ground incursion into the city of Rafah in southern Gaza, which has become the last refuge for more than a million Palestinian civilians who fled fighting in other parts of the territory, should not proceed “under the current circumstances.”
He added: “It is unconscionable that Hamas fighters continue to embed themselves among civilians and civilian infrastructure, including in hospitals and schools.”

Palestinians wait for humanitarian aid on a beachfront in Gaza City, Gaza Strip, Sunday, Feb. 25, 2024. (AP)

Wood vowed that the US will continue to engage in “intensive diplomacy” in its attempts to secure the release of Israeli hostages held by Hamas and enable an agreement for a “significant temporary ceasefire.”
He was speaking during a meeting of the UN Security Council to discuss the threat of starvation in Gaza. It was called by Guyana, which holds the rotating presidency of the council this month, with the support of Switzerland, Slovenia and Algeria.
Slovenia’s permanent representative to the UN, Samuel Zbogar, said: “Only an immediate and permanent ceasefire can avert the risk of famine.”
His country also calls for continuing safe, secure and unhindered humanitarian access to the entire Gaza Strip, he said, including the establishment of additional border crossings and simplified entry procedures for the delivery of aid supplies. He also called for the restoration of sufficient and safe water supplies, and for a ceasefire in the conflict between Israel and Hamas.
“There are times when we need to make choices and we need to prioritize,” Zbogar said. “Slovenia is choosing a ceasefire to prevent famine in Gaza, a ceasefire to provide relief to Palestinian people and to release hostages.”
Ramesh Rajasingham, the head of the UN’s humanitarian affairs office in Geneva and director of its coordination division, told the council that at least 576,000 people in Gaza, about a quarter of the population, are one step away from famine.
One in six children under the age of 2 years old in northern Gaza are suffering from acute malnutrition and wasting (a term used to describe low body weight relative to height), he added, and almost the entire population of the territory relies on “woefully inadequate” humanitarian food assistance to survive.
“If nothing is done, we fear widespread famine in Gaza is almost inevitable (and) the conflict will have many more victims,” Rajasingham said.
Maurizio Martina, deputy director of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, told the council that Gaza has the highest percentage of people experiencing acute food insecurity the organization “has ever classified.”
Gaza’s food systems have been severely affected by the damage and destruction Israeli military operations have caused to civilian infrastructure, he said, including that which is essential for the production, processing and distribution of food, including farmland, irrigation, greenhouses and bakeries.
About 55 percent of land in Gaza used to grow crops has been damaged, Martina added, and other agricultural infrastructure has been devastated, with the greatest destruction affecting sheep farms, dairy farms, poultry farms, animal shelters and home barns. Meanwhile the capacity of bakeries to produce bread has been seriously hampered, and the commercial sector has been decimated as a result of a near-total lack of imports of essential items, including food.
The harvest of olives and citrus fruits, which provide an important source of income for many Palestinians, has been greatly affected by the hostilities as well, Martina added, while fodder shortages and the damage resulting from airstrikes have taken a toll on livestock, with many owners reporting substantial losses. All poultry used for breeding purposes has been slaughtered or died due to lack of feed and clean water, he said, as has up to 60 percent of calves and 70 percent of beef cattle.
Martina called for an immediate ceasefire as a prerequisite for preventing famine.
Carl Skau, the deputy executive director of the World Food Program, told council members that Gaza now has the worst level of child malnutrition seen anywhere in the world. He lamented the fact that the growing risk of famine is being fueled by the inability to get critical food supplies into the enclave in sufficient quantities, and the almost impossible operating conditions workers from his organization have to contend with in Gaza.
“WFP trucks face delays at checkpoints; they face gunfire; food was looted along the way; and at their destination they were overwhelmed by desperately hungry people,” Skau said.
“The breakdown in civil order, driven by sheer desperation, is preventing the safe distribution of aid.”
The WFP earlier announced it had paused the distribution of aid in the north of the territory.
“If nothing changes, a famine is imminent in northern Gaza,” Skau said. “We must all live up to our responsibilities to ensure it does not happen on our watch.”
Guyana’s permanent representative to the UN, Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett, said the Security Council must take action to halt violations of international humanitarian law in Gaza, and called on all those with influence on the “perpetrators” of such actions to exert that influence to prevent further incidents.
Algeria’s permanent representative to the UN, Amar Bendjama. told fellow council members that Israel’s “deliberate use of starvation as a policy is a blatant violation of international law” and was intended to ensure Palestinians in Gaza “lose hope and dignity, and push them to violence and to the breakdown of law and order.”
The war in Gaza is not being waged on Hamas, he added, but is “collective punishment for Palestinian civilians.”
The Algerian envoy warned the council that “our silence grants a license to kill and starve the Palestinian population,” as he again called on the council to urgently demand a ceasefire.

 


London Mayor Sadiq Khan receives death threats from Islamic extremists, gets round-the-clock police protection, says source

London Mayor Sadiq Khan receives death threats from Islamic extremists, gets round-the-clock police protection, says source
Updated 28 February 2024

London Mayor Sadiq Khan receives death threats from Islamic extremists, gets round-the-clock police protection, says source

London Mayor Sadiq Khan receives death threats from Islamic extremists, gets round-the-clock police protection, says source
  • Khan, who is the first Muslim mayor of the British capital, is reportedly protected around the clock by 15 police officers

LONDON: The Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has received death threats from Islamic extremists and has been under police protection since 2017, it was reported on Tuesday.

A source with knowledge of the mayor’s security arrangements that the threat from Islamic fundamentalists was as high as it was from right-wing extremists.

Khan, who is the first Muslim mayor of the British capital, is protected around the clock by 15 police officers, the source added.

The Labour mayor, who has voted for same-sex marriage and backed gay rights in the UK, is seen as a target for Islamists because of his liberal views and his denouncement of terrorist attacks carried out by Islamic extremists, such as the twin attacks in London in 2017 and the Manchester Arena bombing in the same year.

The news comes in the same week that Khan was accused by former senior Conservative politician Lee Anderson of being “under the control of Islamists.”

A man pleaded guilty on Monday to two charges of sending communication threatening death or serious harm, reportedly to Khan, on Saturday following Anderson’s comments.

The charges against the man said that he called police to “convey a threat of death or serious harm to another, intending or being reckless as to whether an individual encountering the message would fear that the threat would be carried out.”


3 men snared in right-wing extremism probe charged in London court with prepping for terrorism

3 men snared in right-wing extremism probe charged in London court with prepping for terrorism
Updated 27 February 2024

3 men snared in right-wing extremism probe charged in London court with prepping for terrorism

3 men snared in right-wing extremism probe charged in London court with prepping for terrorism
  • Men had manufactured an FGC-9 semi-automatic gun, had instructions on assembling a 3D-printed firearm and identified an Islamic education center in Leeds as a possible target
  • Christopher Ringrose, 33, and Brogan Stewart and Marco Pitzettu, both 24, were held in custody after their appearances by video at Westminster Magistrates’ Court

LONDON: Three men arrested in an investigation into right-wing extremism were charged Tuesday in a London court with preparing to commit a terrorist act, authorities said.
They were arrested on Feb. 21, Counter Terrorism Policing North East said.
Prosecutors said the men had joined extreme right-wing online chat forums, had right-wing text messages and distributed information on guns and ammunition.
The men had manufactured an FGC-9 semi-automatic gun, had instructions on assembling a 3D-printed firearm and identified an Islamic education center in Leeds as a possible target.
Christopher Ringrose, 33, and Brogan Stewart and Marco Pitzettu, both 24, were held in custody after their appearances by video at Westminster Magistrates’ Court and ordered to return to the Central Criminal Court on March 15. They did not enter pleas.


Poland mulls wider ban on Ukrainian food imports as farmers warn of more protests

Poland mulls wider ban on Ukrainian food imports as farmers warn of more protests
Updated 27 February 2024

Poland mulls wider ban on Ukrainian food imports as farmers warn of more protests

Poland mulls wider ban on Ukrainian food imports as farmers warn of more protests
  • Tusk made the remarks during a visit to Prague as thousands of Polish farmers took to the streets of Warsaw, escalating a protest against food imports from Ukraine and EU green rules
  • Poland last year extended a ban on Ukrainian grain imports

WARSAW: Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said on Tuesday he could not rule out widening a national ban on imports of Ukrainian grains to other products if the European Union does not act to protect the bloc’s markets.
Tusk made the remarks during a visit to Prague as thousands of Polish farmers took to the streets of Warsaw, carrying the national flag and blowing handheld horns, escalating a protest against food imports from Ukraine and EU green rules.
Farmers across Europe have been protesting for weeks against constraints placed on them by the EU’s “Green Deal” regulations meant to tackle climate change, as well as rising costs and what they say is unfair competition from outside the EU, particularly Ukraine.
The EU in 2022 waived duties on Ukrainian food imports following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Poland last year extended a ban on Ukrainian grain imports.
“We are talking about it with the Ukrainian side — that it will be necessary to expand the embargo to other products if the European Union does not find more effective ways to protect the European and Polish markets,” Tusk said on Tuesday.
Polish Agriculture Minister Czeslaw Siekierski said in a Tuesday evening interview on Polsat News TV that further talks with Ukraine on solutions were planned for Wednesday and various possibilities were being considered.
“Tomorrow we will also talk about it with Ukraine’s minister of economy, who will be a guest at the Ministry of Development and New Technologies,” he said, adding that he would be participating.
He said Polish farmers were invited to the agriculture ministry for talks on Thursday.
Speaking after Siekierski on Polsat News, protest organizer Szczepan Wojcik said the invitation was welcome, but warned of more protests if no progress was made during the next few days.
“Further protests in Warsaw have already been announced for March 6. Farmers are already organizing on the roads, and border crossings will continue to be blocked,” he said.
Asked about the possibility of further escalation, Wojcik said, “The farmers are desperate. ... The ball is in the government’s court.”
Earlier in the day, Tusk said the EU had to solve the problems created by its decision to open its borders to imports of Ukrainian food products.
He added that Poland was ready to co-finance purchases of Polish, European and Ukrainian food and agricultural products to be sent as humanitarian aid to famine-stricken countries, and that “Europe should certainly find funds for this.”
Back home, farmers rallied in central Warsaw before marching toward parliament and then Tusk’s office. A city hall official cited by PAP state news agency put the number of protesters around 10,000.
“We are protesting because we want the ‘green deal’ to be lifted, as it will lead our farms to bankruptcy with its costs...that are not comparable to what we harvest and to what we are paid,” said Kamil Wojciechowski, 31, a farmer from Izbica Kujawska in central Poland.
“What we’re paid for our work, it has decreased because of the influx of grain from Ukraine and this is our second demand — to block the influx of grain from Ukraine,” he said.
The farmers began a series of protests throughout the country earlier this month, which included a near-total blockade of all Ukrainian border crossings, as well as disruptions at ports and on roads nationwide.
“We won’t give up. We have no choice. Our farms will go bankrupt, we will lose our livelihoods,” Pawel Walkowiak, 47, a corn and wheat producer from Konarzewo in western Poland, said.
The city hall official said Tuesday’s protest in Warsaw took place without major incidents.