Protesting farmers hurl eggs, clog streets with tractors as EU summit begins in Brussels

Public TV English
Public TV English
5 Min Read

BRUSSELS: As leaders of the European Union (EU) held a meeting on Thursday, sanctioning fresh funds for Ukraine, hundreds of protesting farmers gathered outside the Parliament premises in Brussels, CNN reported.

According to the report, the protesters blared horns, hurled eggs, set off fires and rolled into Brussels in their tractors in the early morning hours before the meeting.

Farmers across Europe have hit the streets seeking loosening of the rules that govern the bloc’s shared agricultural policy, saying they are not paid enough, are being choked by taxes and environmental restrictions and face unfair competition from abroad, including cheap agricultural imports from Ukraine.

CNN reported that a handful of tractors had been parked near the EU Parliament all week before convoys from across the country converged on Thursday morning. Some of the protesters set objects on fire in front of the parliament building, while others held up signs with slogans including: ‘No farmers, no food’.

Police said on Thursday that about 1,000 tractors were expected in the Belgian capital for the planned demonstration, warning about ‘traffic problems’ in the area.

Although EU farming issues are not part of the summit’s agenda, the demonstrators are aiming to put pressure on the bloc for their grievances to be heard. The EU has waived quotas and duties on Ukrainian imports in light of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, CNN reported.

Renaud Foucart, a senior economics lecturer at Lancaster University in England, told CNN that there are two overarching issues that the protesting farmers have.

“One of them, which is mostly for eastern European farmers, is the fear that wheat and a lot of other agricultural products entering the market from Ukraine is unfair competition and they would like to get some protectionism for that,” Foucart said.

According to Foucart, for farmers in western European countries, the main issue is the environmental measures being introduced under the EU Green Deal, which they say will burden them with extra costs and regulations.

“Those farmers, they would like to get some form of exemption from that, some form of compensation,” Foucart added.

According to CNN, Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo dubbed the farmers’ concerns as ‘perfectly legitimate’.

“As you have seen, there is a major farmers’ protest in Brussels. We need to be able to discuss in the Council on this topic because the concerns that they have are perfectly legitimate,” the Belgian PM said on his arrival at the summit, adding, “The climate transition is a key priority for our societies. We need to make sure that our farmers can be a partner in this.”

Protests have also taken place over the past few days in Italy, Spain, Romania, Poland, Germany, Portugal and the Netherlands.

In Greece, tractors were seen marching towards the second biggest city of Thessaloniki on Thursday, hoping to block key routes inside the city.

In France, protesting farmers continued putting up roadblocks outside of Paris and near the cities of Lyon and Toulouse.

According to CNN, 91 people were detained on Wednesday for obstructing traffic and causing damage near the Rungis market south of Paris, a key distribution food hub. According to the French government, more announcements are expected ‘in the coming days’.

On Thursday, newly appointed French Prime Minister Gabriel Attal announced new measures for the farming industry, including financial support, in a press conference.

Following the announcement, two of France’s major farming unions urged their members to end roadblocks.

“We believe we need to change our mode of action and so we’re calling on our networks through national channels to suspend the blockades and enter into a new form of mobilization,” Arnaud Gaillot, president of Jeunes Agriculteurs, said.

To address some of the farming industry’s concerns, the European Commission proposed a ‘temporary’ exemption for farmers to an EU rule that would oblige them to keep 4% of their arable land fallow or unproductive for biodiversity purposes.

It also proposed to “renew the suspension of import duties and quotas on Ukrainian exports to the EU for another year, while reinforcing protection for sensitive EU agricultural products.” (ANI)

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