Farmers protest outside European Parliament over rising costs and competition News
Leonhard Lenz, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons
Farmers protest outside European Parliament over rising costs and competition

Farmers protested outside the European Parliament in Brussels on Thursday, demanding relief from taxes and rising costs, as European leaders met during a summit. They were met by police action with water hoses and tear gas. The protests are a part of a growing farmers movement across Europe to demand action on rising costs. 

The farmers took to the streets in Brussels, Belgium on Thursday morning on their tractors, causing major disruption of the traffic in the city. They threw eggs and stones, built barricade, sparked fires and set off fireworks in front of the European Parliament. The farmers held banners with slogans such as “no farmer, no food.” Police tried to restrict the protest by using water hoses and tear gas. Police estimate that the Thursday demonstration included around 1,000 tractors.

Farmers across Europe have said they are suffering from rising costs, competition from cheap imports and the stringent requirements of the European Green Deal, a policy aiming at sustainable development. Started in France, the protests have pervaded Europe, hitting Germany, Netherlands, Spain, Italy, Poland and Romania.

Belgium currently holds the rotating presidency of the EU. On Thursday, European leaders met in Brussels to discuss issues surrounding EU’s long-term budget, support for Ukraine, and the situation in the Middle East. Although agricultural issues and farmers’ demands were later added to the agenda, it did not stop the farmers from holding the Thursday protests during the summit. 

The demonstration saw a preliminary victory as leaders discussed agriculture during the Thursday summit, as demanded by farmers. Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo, European Commission President Vonder Leyen and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte met with representatives of Copa Cogeca, the united voice of farmers and agri-cooperatives in the EU.

On Wednesday, the European Commission proposed several measures to calm farmers protests, including limiting agricultural imports from Ukraine and easing the requirement for minimum share of land fallow to receive EU farm support payments. These proposals still need approval from governments and the European Parliament.

Earlier, the French government introduced on January 26 measures that abandoned its previous plan to reduce state subsidies on agricultural diesel, following multiple farmers protests in the country. On Friday, French President Emmanuel Macron posted on X (formerly Twitter), “[W]e will always stand alongside our farmers.” He promised measures including strengthening internal lawmaking, reducing paperwork, encouraging local consumption and supporting farmers with the European Common Agricultural Policy. Moreover, according to Macron, France opposes and will continue to oppose the EU’s free trade agreement with the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR) that seeks to increase bilateral trade and lower tariff.