WARSAW (Reuters) -Polish politicians called on the EU Commissioner for Agriculture to quit on Friday as farmers blocked roads across his home country Poland and at border crossings with Ukraine, kicking off a month-long general strike to protest against EU policies.
Farmers in France, Belgium, Portugal, Greece, Spain and Germany have also been protesting against constraints placed on them by EU measures to tackle climate change, as well as rising costs and what they say is unfair competition from abroad.
Polish farmers are angry about the impact of cheap food imports from neighbouring Ukraine and what they say is the "passivity" of their government. EU Agriculture Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski came under fire from all sides.
"There is a man in Europe who united all European and Polish farmers against the reform he proposed. This is Janusz Wojciechowski. Resign!" said Deputy Prime Minister Wladysław Kosiniak-Kamysz.
Wojciechowski was also criticised by the leader of the former ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party that proposed him for the position. Jarosław Kaczynski said he would call the commissioner to ask him to quit.
Wojciechowski told private broadcaster Polsat News that he had not answered or looked at his telephone, adding that he would make a statement on his future in a few days, probably on Thursday.
He defended his record, saying that he was the only commissioner to have opposed imports from Ukraine.
About 100 farmers and 50 cars blocked the approach to Medyka border crossing, blocking traffic for all vehicles, Ukrainian border service spokesman Andriy Demchenko said on television.
The Ukrainian border service also said that traffic flow had been disrupted at two other crossings.
Elsewhere in central Europe, a farmers' protest was taking place at the Zahony crossing on the border between Hungary and Ukraine. In a comment to the Ukrainska Pravda outlet, Demchenko said there was no disruption for trucks during the day.
Polish media said there were over 250 blockades across the country. Images showed convoys of tractors clogging roads and banners such as "Without us, you will be hungry, naked and sober".
"Today the whole of Europe is on fire. The Green Deal has arrived, which has destroyed our thinking about agriculture," one of the protesters, Wieslaw Gryn, told private broadcaster TVN24 at the Hrubieszow border crossing.
"We are not against pro-ecological solutions, but they must be agreed with farmers."
Poland's agriculture minister said he understood the challenges farmers were facing but he hoped the protests could be organised in a way to be "the least burdensome for citizens".
"Farmers have legitimate concerns, expectations and demands to limit the excessive inflow of goods from Ukraine, as well as from other non-European markets to the EU, especially to Poland," Czeslaw Siekierski told public radio on Friday.
(Reporting by Anna Wlodarczak-Semczuk, Pawel Florkiewicz and Alan Charlish; Additional reporting by Pavel Polityuk in Kyiv, Yuliia Dysa in Gdansk and Boldizsar Gyori in Budapest; Editing by Ros Russell, William Maclean and Nick Macfie)