Farmers break police cordon in Brussels

Farmers break police cordon in Brussels

Farmers honked their tractor horns on Monday and tried to break through police barriers as they surrounded the European Union headquarters in Brussels demanding more support. The protest was partly directed against a meeting of EU agriculture ministers. It is the second major protest in Brussels in recent weeks. Farmers complain about bureaucratic obstacles, trade agreements, climate regulations and efforts to help Ukraine sell its grain.

“There is a clear problem with the reduction of import tariffs into Ukraine and the massive imports of cereals and poultry that are depressing prices,” said Guillaume Van Binst, secretary general of the Young Farmers Association. “The measures proposed by the Commission are very weak and are more like giving the hot potato to the Member States.”

Security around EU offices was tight and police wore protective equipment. Tractors broke into police barricades in several places and broke barbed wire in at least one place, videos on social media show.

The EU has tried to defuse farmers' protests across Europe by taking steps to reduce bureaucracy and delaying some regulations. European farmers will be able to use all their arable land again this year. The European Commission suspended the obligation to reserve 4% of the area for fallow, as it did last year.

“It can always go faster, but we are already working faster than normal,” Belgian Agriculture Minister David Clarinval told reporters on Monday.

“You can understand the farmers’ anger. It can also be understood that some are in a difficult situation. But aggression has never been a source of solutions.” Several ministers plan to meet with farmer representatives on Monday afternoon to discuss their concerns.