Farmers' Fury: Eggs, Stones, and Chaos Unleashed at European Parliament

EU | February 1, 2024, Thursday // 18:00|  views

In a substantial protest on Thursday, farmers unleashed chaos near the European Parliament, pelting eggs and stones at the iconic building. The demonstration, fueled by grievances over taxes and escalating costs, turned volatile as fires ignited in the vicinity.

Small groups attempted to breach barriers set up in front of the parliament, prompting police to respond with tear gas and water hoses to quell the unrest, according to Reuters. Adding to the tumult, protesters toppled and set fire to the statue of industrialist John Cockerill in Luxembourg Square, right before the Parliament building.

Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo, currently holding the EU Council presidency, condemned the attack on the historical site and the violence perpetrated by the protesters.

The Belgian capital faced significant disruptions as around 1,300 tractors blocked main roads. Riot-gear-clad security officers formed human barriers around key EU buildings where leaders convene.

Farmers from various European countries, including Italy and Spain, joined the Brussels demonstration. A meeting between their representatives and European Commissioner for Agriculture Janusz Wojciechowski was scheduled for the evening. In response to ongoing protests in France, the European Commission proposed temporary adjustments to certain environmental requirements and a safeguard mechanism for imports of specific agricultural products from Ukraine.

Simultaneously, farmers in Portugal joined the unrest, marching to the Spanish border in the northeast to block roads. In France, farmers marched on the lower house of parliament in Paris, causing disruptions and economic losses for transport and logistics employers.

The widespread protests highlight farmers' grievances over insufficient pay, tax burdens, environmental regulations, and perceived unfair competition from abroad. With European Parliament elections approaching in June, the far-right is gaining traction among farmers, potentially impacting European politics.

Although the farmers' crisis is not officially on the EU summit agenda, it is expected to be discussed later in the day, according to an EU diplomat. Farmers aim to amplify their voices during this politically sensitive period.

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar sided with French President Emmanuel Macron, supporting the call for the European Commission to reconsider negotiations on a trade deal with the South American MERCOSUR countries—a crucial demand by protesting farmers.

As the continent grapples with the escalating unrest, the impact on transport and logistics in France is already apparent, with significant income losses reported due to delays caused by the farmers' protests.

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Tags: farmers, protest, European, agricultural

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