Brussels saw a chaotic farmer’s protest on Thursday as demonstrators clashed with police, throwing stones and objects in front of the European Parliament. The protest coincided with the Ukraine financing summit, where EU leaders were meeting to discuss financial aid for Ukraine.
Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo acknowledged the farmers’ concerns and said “We need to be able to discuss in the (European) Council on this topic, because the concerns that they have are partly legitimate. The climate transition is a key priority for our societies. We need to make sure that our farmers can be a partner in this.”
The protest caused major traffic disruptions, with thousands of tractors blocking major roads and streets in the Belgian capital.
Chaos in Brussels as farmer protesters clash with police in front of European Parliament
Feb 1, 2024 Global News www.youtube.com/watch?v=OFkoK6NyEGs
Hundreds of farmers block roads and start fires outside European Parliament
Feb 1, 2024 Sky News Australia www.youtube.com/watch?v=OcCrVXTvhUU
In France this week, farmers had threatened to starve Paris, blockading motorways across the country, but they have pulled back.
Farming unions called off their protest shortly after fresh concessions from the French government, with French Prime Minister Gabriel Attal saying mistakes had been made.
Europe’s Agrarian Uprisings: Brussels is reaping what it sowed
Across the European landscape, a disquiet rumbles beneath the surface of rolling hills and fertile plains. It emanates from the very backbone of the continent – its farmers. From the tractor rallies of France and Germany to the demonstrations in Poland and the Netherlands, a wave of agrarian protests has erupted, driven by a potent cocktail of frustration, betrayal, and a yearning for stability.
Over the past few years, farmers in Western Europe have increasingly vehemently opposed policies designed to protect the environment, arguing that such measures incur excessive costs. Environmental regulations, lauded as “Farm to Fork” by the EU, are perceived by many as constricting livelihoods and punishing hardworking farmers and producers. Quotas, restrictions, and a labyrinthine bureaucracy squeeze profits and threaten generational continuity. Soaring inflation, amplified by fuel and fertilizer costs, erodes already tight margins, pushing farmers to the precipice of financial ruin.
To top it all off, unchecked imports, often produced in countries outside the EU and therefore under much less rigorous standards, felt like a dagger in the back, a consequence of trade deals prioritizing global markets over domestic well-being. This sense of alienation from distant power centers in Brussels and national capitals only compounds the protestors’ frustration. Farmers feel unheard, ignored and their concerns dismissed by those in charge; they have simply been taken for granted and fed false promises for too long.
The anger is deep, justified and widespread. In the Netherlands there have been intense and recurrent protests since a 2019 court ruling on nitrogen emissions, sparking government initiatives to close down farms and reduce animal numbers. In Belgium, similar conflicts led to convoys of tractors congesting the EU quarter of Brussels in March of the previous year, while in Ireland, although on a smaller scale, dairy farmers, disgruntled with nitrogen restrictions, marched with their cows to the offices of three government ministers. In January, German farmers, over 10,000 of them, with some 5,000 tractors and trucks, descended upon Berlin’s famous Brandenburg Gate – the culmination of protests that have lasted for more than a week and saw them blocking highway entrances and causing total chaos in the capital. The main stated source of their anger is a government plan to phase out tax relief on agricultural diesel, yet the true triggers of this uprising are much more complex.