Bratislava (AFP) – Slovakia’s president on Wednesday called on the government to address the demands of farmers who drove their tractors into the capital to protest against irregularities in EU farm subsidy payments first made public by murdered journalist Jan Kuciak.
“The situation is serious,” President Andrej Kiska told reporters after meeting with the farmers’ representatives.
“It is high time that the government started addressing the demands and problems of Slovak farmers.”
The farmers are demanding transparent rules for land usage rights and the distribution of EU subsidies among other issues, according to the Rural Platform group behind the protest.
The irregularities were uncovered by Kuciak, who was gunned down in his home as he was about to publish the investigative report into corruption and alleged ties between politicians and the Italian mafia.
The article included allegations that several million euros in EU farm subsidies had been lost to fraud.
The murder and Kuciak’s last explosive report plunged the eurozone country of 5.4 million people into crisis, sparking weekly mass protests that forced the government to resign in March.
The demonstration began Tuesday evening, when up to 50 farmers from across the country rolled into public parking lots on the banks of the Danube river to spend the night.
The farmers plastered their tractors with signs saying “Give back our land”, “We need agricultural reform” and “Give young farmers a chance”.
On Wednesday, a dozen farmers parked five tractors in front of the agriculture ministry and asked to be invited in as a group for talks.
A ministerial aide said that only a few of them could be admitted, so they decided not to go in at all.
“I wanted to have a discussion with these farmers,” Agriculture Minister Gabriela Matecna told reporters.
“It is a pity that they did not come inside to talk to us.”
Other farmers parked their tractors in front of parliament as well as the presidential palace.
Organisers said they intend to continue the protest on Thursday.