What the farmers who took over Brussels with their tractors are asking for: “We must end the crazy laws of the European Commission”

Hundreds of farmers have been there since early in the morning with their tractors in Brusselswhere they have called rallies to protest against the decrease in incomethe environmental regulationsthe administrative overhead or the free trade agreements like the one that still has to conclude the European Union and the Mercosur.

Protesters threw eggs at the European Parliament, stones at police, lit fires near the building and launched fireworks, in protests that take place in the middle of the extraordinary summit of European leaders to try to unblock Hungary’s veto of aid to Ukraine.

The new one Common Agricultural Policy (PAC), one of the pillars of EU policies and responsible for setting the conditions for the granting of agricultural subsidies, the Climate Green Pact and fears about negative effects of EU-Mercosur agreement They crystallize the discomfort.

Farmers of Italy and Spain joined the protest this Thursday, and a Spanish farmer said they wanted put an end to the “crazy laws” of the European Commission.

“It’s a kind of tsunami“, said José María Castillarepresentative of the Spanish farmers’ union (ASAJA). “We demand respect for the Spanish people and for agriculture, for the European Community”.

The Spanish countryside is going through a difficult time due to the drought that has plagued it for three years and that significantly reduced the olive and cereal harvests. Their unions also denounce the “suffocating bureaucracy of the EU.

For this reason, Castilla considered that “it is the right time” to protest. “The European elections are approaching and politicians are super nervous and so is the European Commission,” she said. “We cannot wait another five years again for more legislation and not compete with the same tools as third countries”, in reference to the alleged unfair competition from abroad.

Farmers also claim that they don’t get paid enoughwhich are suffocated by taxes and the ecological standards.

“We want to safeguard our tradition, our farmers, our food quality and, most importantly, a decent income,” he explained. Enrico Parisisinternational delegate of the young farmers of Coldirettithe Italian employers’ association of the sector.

EU concessions

A man looks on as riot police stand guard outside the European Parliament during a protest by Belgian farmers in Brussels, (REUTERS/Yves Herman) (YVES HERMAN/)

To appease the agricultural sector, the European Comission yesterday proposed to repeal throughout the year 2024 the rule that requires farmers to maintain part of their fallow arable landa measure demanded by demonstrators protesting in several Member States.

The Community Executive also proposed yesterday to extend for another year the commercial advantages it grants to Ukraine to support its economy against the invasion of Russia, but introduced safeguards in case one or more countries see their agricultural markets affected, especially in the case of poultry.

Concessions that, however, do not seem to convince the protesters.

Another of the main points of tension is the agreement that the EU and the South American bloc of Mercosur have been negotiating for 20 yearsand which, according to farmers, would deal a severe setback to this sector in Europe.

The protest began in France and spread throughout the EU.  (REUTERS/Stephanie Lecocq)
The protest began in France and spread throughout the EU. (REUTERS/Stephanie Lecocq) (STEPHANIE LECOCQ/)

The French Minister of Economy, Bruno Le Maireunderlined Paris’ willingness to fight a “pulse” with the European Commissionagainst the signing of the agreement in its current form with the bloc formed by Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay.

The prime minister of IrelandLeo Varadkar also said that the agreement, currently in its final negotiation phase, “cannot be ratified in its current form.”

“Legitimate concerns”

Farmer protests in recent weeks in countries such as Germany, France either Belgium They have also made their way into the extraordinary summit of European leaders to try to unblock Hungary’s veto of aid to Ukraine.

“We have to be able to discuss this issue in the Council because the concerns they have are partially legitimate“said the Belgian Prime Minister upon his arrival at the summit, Alexander De Croowhose country holds the presidency of the EU Council this semester.

Belgian farmers block the European Union headquarters with their tractors.  (REUTERS/Yves Herman)
Belgian farmers block the European Union headquarters with their tractors. (REUTERS/Yves Herman) (YVES HERMAN/)

“The energy transition is a key priority for our societies, but we need to ensure that farmers can be partners in this. They have made incredible efforts in the last year, they have adapted to the new standards. We have a long road ahead of us and we have to make sure that they can be partners” in the transition, said De Croo, who met with representatives of Belgian farmers last Friday.

In his opinion, the EU has to ensure that farmers receive “an adequate price for quality products” that they produce and that the administrative weight imposed on them by the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is “reasonable”.

The reasons for farmers’ discontent were not expected to be formally addressed at today’s European summit, which focuses on aid to Ukraine and the situation in Gaza.

However, the French president, Emmanuel Macroncomes to the summit with the intention of discuss the matter during your stay in Brusselsespecially to call for a series of changes in agricultural policy, in particular on fallow rules and the entry of Ukrainian products.

(With information from Reuters, AFP, EFE and AP)