Protesting farmers clash with police in Brussels
The dairy farmers protest in Brussels yesterday got out of hand, with fires set and violent clashes with police
€500 million support proposed
The day began with loud chants and firecrackers, but, as the protest went on, it became more violent, and police used water cannons and tear gas to try to regain control of the situation. Hay bales were set on fire, and police were pelted with stones and bottles.
“Thanks to the violence of certain hot-heads, our people didn’t get a chance to follow the speeches,” said one farmers’ representative. “We were expecting a friendly demonstration. This is not what we stand for.”
The farmers were protesting against falling prices, particularly for milk and pork, which they blame on ineffective policies. Milk production quotas were scrapped, and production increased. In addition, Russia imposed a boycott on EU exports, and the Chinese market has started shrinking, albeit after several years of spectacular growth.
The demonstrators demanded EU aid, both in direct financial aid to families in need and in structural aid to compensate for lower prices. The EU Commission responded with a proposal to pay €500 million in support, as well as help with export promotion to find new markets. The meeting ended, however, without an agreement being reached. According to federal agriculture minister Willy Borsus, the measure does not go far enough.
The government of Flanders, meanwhile, said it would offer credit guarantees for farmers to pay costs, such as animal feed, or for the refinancing of existing debts on more advantageous terms.
Photo: Harry Proudlove/Demotix/Corbis
Flemish agriculture and horticulture
percent of Belgium’s fruit harvest comes from Flanders
agriculture businesses in Flanders in 2011
people employed in Flemish agriculture and horticulture in 2011