What do the farmers of Brussels want? You cannot simply solve their most important grievances | Abroad

What do the farmers of Brussels want? You cannot simply solve their most important grievances | Abroad
What do the farmers of Brussels want? You cannot simply solve their most important grievances | Abroad

The day started on Friday with new farmers’ blockades in Belgium, despite the fact that ‘Brussels’ made commitments on Thursday. The protest is also complicated: in several EU countries, the demonstrating farmers want something different. But almost everywhere there is dissatisfaction about at least four points. We list them, together with the proposals from Brussels.

In Flanders, just like in the Netherlands, they are angry about the nitrogen plans. In Germany it is about the end of the tax discount on diesel. But besides differences in the protests, there are also common grievances.

European agricultural policy is characterized by detailed regulations. This is typical for the EU: only if everyone adheres to the same rules can products be traded safely across all countries. Can consumers trust that what is on the shelf is in order? And producers can compete fairly with each other. However, in recent years many rules have been added to limit the damage that agriculture has on nature, the environment and the climate. The use of fertilizers and pesticides must be reduced, as well as methane and nitrogen emissions. Animal welfare has also received more attention. The amount of noise in the stables, the size of the cages, how wide the perch should be for a chicken: it is all recorded.

The European Commission is now proposing to shelve one unpopular new rule: the obligation to leave 4 percent of agricultural land fallow. The aim was to stimulate biodiversity: space for flowers, plants, insects and therefore for meadow birds, whose numbers have declined enormously.

2. The cheap competition from Ukraine

Promising help is easy if it doesn’t cost you anything. But the 2022 EU decision to temporarily not levy import tariffs, in particular on poultry and eggs from Ukraine, to guarantee farmers there an income in time of war, will immediately hit the wallets of farmers in the neighboring countries of Poland, Hungary and Slovakia in particular. The Commission has previously announced measures to support them – but to receive that support, additional forms will of course have to be completed.

The Commission now proposes that as soon as more is imported from Ukraine than the average for 2022 and 2023, customs tariffs will be levied on that extra part. Both proposals still need to be approved by agriculture ministers.

This is not due to Brussels regulations, but due to market forces. Supermarkets and the food industry eat up a large part of the margins of what customers pay for vegetables and meat in the supermarket. Moreover, prices are being fudged. “Milk is now sometimes cheaper than water,” wrote the leader of the Belgian Farmers’ Forum The standard. His organization advocates agreements on minimum prices. Supermarkets counter that consumers simply want to pay as little as possible.

4. And then all those other causes

“One plague after another is coming to farmers: drought, wetness, fires, high prices, both for feed and for energy,” European Commissioner Sevkovic said on Wednesday. “We have to take that into account.” And of course the widespread feeling that politicians do not ‘listen’. Prime Ministers Orbán (before the summit) and De Croo and Rutte (after) tried to do the latter.

The summit itself was not disrupted: the building where the 27 heads of government met to discuss an aid package for Ukraine was, as always, hermetically sealed. A kilometer away, in the square in front of the European Parliament, farmers destroyed a statue and skirmished with the police. More serious were the three traffic accidents that occurred elsewhere in Belgium when motorists crashed into traffic jams caused by farmers’ blockades on the highway: three seriously injured.

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The article is in Dutch


Tags: farmers Brussels simply solve important grievances


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