Protesting farmers have blocked the roads with about 1,300 tractors around the European Union (EU) summit venue where the bloc’s 27 leaders are gathered on Thursday, said the police.
In response to a call from Europe’s farming union, the European Coordination Via Campesina (ECVC), the farmers gathered at 11 a.m. local time (1000 GMT) on Place du Luxembourg in Brussels, where the European Parliament is located. The site is a kilometer away from the Schuman roundabout, where a special EU summit is taking place.
The protesters were understood to show their complaints about taxes, administrative overload, rising costs and cheap imports, and asked EU leaders for more help.
“Europe’s neo-liberal policies are overwhelmingly responsible for farmers’ distress: free trade agreements (FTAs), market deregulation, Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) subsidies which are distributed totally unfairly, administrative overload, fake solutions such as senseless support for digitization, GMOs and carbon markets, and a lack of overall vision for a transition to more sustainable models of agriculture, to name only some,” ECVC said in a press release.
ECVC demands an end to FTAs linked to agriculture as well as giving up negotiations between the EU and the South American trade bloc Mercosur, fair prices for farm produce amid rising production costs, a redistribution of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) money per active worker instead of by hectare to better support small and medium-sized farms during their transition towards agroecology and sustainability, and a simplification of red tape.
Red tape imposed by the EU takes up to two full days to complete, which keeps farmers away from working on the fields, according to Belgian farmer unions FWA (Wallonian Federation for Agriculture) and UFW (Union of female farmers in Wallonia).
The CAP also imposes a strict calendar, regardless of the weather and other circumstances. This leads to soil degradation and poorer harvest and proves unsustainable, the Belgian farmers’ unions argue. They also ask for an indexation of the CAP budget, as it has been regularly cut off despite rising costs of living.
Representatives of the ECVC are expected to meet in the afternoon with European Commissioner in charge of European Agriculture Janusz Wojciechowski and with the cabinet of Charles Michel, president of the European Council, to discuss their demands.
The farmers were joined by more than 30 civil society organizations, and have received the support of Green member of the European Parliament Saskia Bricmont.
“A fair income, a nourishing local agriculture, the end of unfair competition. For the return to working the land in a way that protects people and the planet. Environmentalists and farmers together to tackle social and climate challenges,” Bricmont published on social media platform X, with photos of tractors in the streets of Brussels.
Farmers in several other EU countries have taken to the streets as well. In France, protesting farmers blocked major roads around Paris earlier this week.