Various parties in the House are pointing the finger at each other for the problems that farmers are facing today. Minister of Agriculture David Clarinval (MR) announced a number of initiatives to address a number of farmers’ grievances, but these were not always received with great enthusiasm in the hemisphere.
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A debate took place in the plenary Chamber on Thursday about the farmers’ protests of the past few days. The farmers are angry about the overabundance of rules that they have to adhere to, but also about the lack of pay for their work and the unfair competition that they feel directly in their wallets.
During the debate it was noticeable that quite a few parties pointed to the others for some of the problems. Kim Buyst (Green) accused CD&V, Open VLD and Vlaams Belang of voting for the European agricultural policy. Marianne Verhaert (Open VLD) bounced the ball back: “Anyone who always blindly puts nature first should not be surprised that farmers feel deprived,” she said.
Barbara Pas (Vlaams Belang) blamed all other parties for voting for the Green Deal, while Raoul Hedebouw (PVDA) thought that the liberals were too much in favor of the monopolists. “A lot of bickering,” said Peter De Roover (N-VA). He called for measures to strengthen the position of farmers vis-à-vis other players.
A lot of attention was paid to the Mercosur agreement. That is the trade agreement with Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay that Europe has been negotiating for a long time. The Walloon government stated on Wednesday that it was squarely against that agreement. In the House, the greens would also prefer to see it end up in the trash bin, while Wouter Beke (CD&V) and Vicky Reynaert (Vooruit) are calling for clear changes to the text. These should concern social standards, agricultural conditions and climate standards.
In his response, Minister Clarinval mentioned the prospect of a working group that will work on fewer administrative procedures, as well as a task force that will examine fair remuneration – in the image of the “Ukraine Task Force”. “Without a serious mirror clause to protect the agricultural component, I do not see an agreement on the free trade agreement,” the minister said about the Mercosur agreement.
“We want a political answer, and you gave a bureaucratic answer,” responded Christophe Lacroix (PS). Kim Buyst talked about “a little fiddling in the margins.”