Thousands of demonstrators arrived in Brussels on tractors, where they burned fertilizer and pelted the legislature with eggs
A crowd of angry farmers picketed outside the European Parliament building in Brussels on Thursday, protesting environmental rules and the threat cheap Ukrainian imports pose to their livelihoods. Protesters threw stones, eggs and abused bureaucrats behind police lines.
Convoys of tractors began flowing into Brussels on Wednesday evening, and by Thursday morning, the streets of the Belgian capital were clogged with about 1,300 vehicles, according to police estimates.
Farmers gathered in front of the European Parliament building on Luxembourg Square, where they burned pallets and dung heaps. The crowd threw eggs, stones, fireworks and flaming projectiles at the Legislative Council, while similar scenes occurred outside the nearby headquarters of the European Council.
Riot police used water cannons to extinguish the fires and remove the demonstrators who were throwing stones at them. As of Thursday afternoon, no arrests or injuries had been reported.
The protest was the culmination of months of demonstrations in various European Union countries. Farmers in Germany have blocked city streets since December, demanding that Chancellor Olaf Scholz abandon his plans to abolish diesel subsidies, while farmers in France have also protested against rising energy costs. In Eastern Europe, farmers were Pretending Against the European Union policy that allows the import of cheap Ukrainian grain without customs duties, which significantly weakens domestic production.
Across the bloc, decisions made in Brussels are a common source of grievance. Farmers have condemned the EU's planned Mercosur trade deal, which would allow products from Latin America to be imported duty-free, forcing EU farmers to sell at a lower price. Farmers have also called on the EU to scrap regulations, including a requirement to leave 4% of their land fallow, and to reduce livestock numbers to cut nitrogen emissions.
A short distance from the protest, the European Council met on Thursday morning, but agricultural issues were not on the agenda. Instead, the Council approved a package of economic aid for Ukraine worth 50 billion euros. However, Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo told reporters that farmers' concerns would be discussed, noting that EU leaders “Need to make sure of that [the farmers] They can get the right price for the high-quality products they offer.”
With European Parliament elections in June looming, the European Commission announced on Wednesday that it would grant farmers some limited concessions, including a year-long exemption from the fallow land rule for some producers, and a promise to put an end to Ukrainian poultry imports. Eggs and sugar. However, the Commission said it would extend the tariff-free regime for all other Ukrainian products until June 2025.
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