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Polish farmers march in Warsaw against the EU’s climate policy and the country’s pro-EU leader

WARSAW, Poland (AP) – Tens of thousands of disgruntled Polish farmers marched through downtown Warsaw on Friday to protest the European Union’s climate policies and oppose Prime Minister Donald Tusk’s pro-EU government.

The march under the slogan “Down with the Green Deal” was organized by Solidarity, a farmers’ trade union that strongly opposes EU agricultural policy, in particular the policy called the Green Deal, which aims to make agriculture more climate-friendly. Farmers say this interferes with their work and imposes high costs on them.

“We are protesting because we do not want to become slaves on our own land,” said dairy farmer Grażyna Gasowska from eastern Poland.

“According to the Green Deal, we have to grow what they tell us and when they tell us,” said Gasowska, holding the white and red national flag. “All these diversification requirements are very difficult for farmers.”

The noisy march stopped in front of the EU office in Warsaw and then in front of the parliament.

“Let Brussels eat worms, we prefer pork chops and potatoes,” one banner said, referring to the general belief that the EU would advise eating insects and worms instead of cattle meat.

The demonstration took place on the eve of the campaign of Polish political parties elections to the European Parliament next month. The protest was supported by the Polish right-wing opposition party Law and Justice, which was in power from 2015 until the end of last year and wants to regain political momentum.

On the occasion of the elections, Tusk announced changes in his government on Friday, which are to replace four ministers who will run for the European Parliament next month.

The changes are also seen as an opportunity to bring new energy to Tusk’s government, which took office in December and launched deep reforms in many areas, including: in justice, foreign policy and media.

“Today is the time to put things in order and this is one of the reasons why we decided on these changes together,” Tusk said.

He announced that there will be more changes in the future that will be dictated by the “state’s interest.”

Tusk’s pro-EU government has launched a broad reversal of PiS policies that, under its rule, have put Poland on a collision course with the 27-member EU. Tusk’s team is taking action to free the justice system and state media from the political control that PiS tried to impose and to hold accountable those responsible for mismanagement and loss of funds by state-owned companies.

The Minister of Culture, Bartłomiej Sienkiewicz, who headed the change in the authorities of the state television, radio and news agency, and the Minister of Internal Affairs and Administration, Marcin Kierwiński, were replaced. The ministers of state assets, Borys Budka, and development and technology, Krzysztof Hetman, also left.

Tomasz Siemoniak, who was the Minister of National Defense in Tusk’s previous government in 2011–2015, became the new Minister of Internal Affairs. He retains his position as coordinator of secret services during Russia’s war with Poland’s neighbor, Ukraine.

The current Minister of Culture is Hanna Wróblewska, an art historian. Jakub Jaworowski, an economist and financier, was appointed to the management of state assets, which are currently being audited, revealing gross cases of mismanagement under the previous government. Krzysztof Paszyk, an experienced politician and legislator, became the new Minister of Development and Technology.

They will take office after being formally appointed by President Andrzej Duda on Monday.

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This story corrects the spelling of the name of the Minister of Internal Affairs to Siemoniak.