Angry farmers prevent Brussels from opposing EU policies, cheap prices from Ukraine | Objections


Farmers threw beets, sprayed police with manure and set grass on fire in Brussels as hundreds of tractors blocked roads near the European Union capital, as agriculture ministers sought to end a crisis that has sparked 27 months of protests.

The farmers on Tuesday protested what they see as over-exploitation and unfair trade practices as well as increased environmental and economic pressures from Ukraine. “Let’s earn our living,” read a sign on a tractor-trailer blocking the main road planted with potatoes, eggs and manure.

As the protests turned violent, police used tear gas and water to protect about 250 farmers and tractors, while ministers met to implement measures to end the crisis. Officials asked travelers to stay away from Brussels and work from home as much as possible.

Several farmers, police and firefighters were injured, but none were life-threatening. The government has criticized the farmers for failing to contain the rioters who threw electric bicycles off a bridge and set fire to the entrance of a subway station.

With protests taking place from Finland to Greece, Poland and Ireland, farmers have already benefited from the EU and the authorities, from loosening agricultural regulations to weakening pesticide and environmental laws.

A major plan to better protect the bloc’s environment and tackle climate change was suspended until Monday, underscoring the political impact of the protests.

EU member states on Tuesday gave their provisional approval to proposals that amount to weakening or cutting rules in areas such as crop rotation, soil conservation and farming methods. Small farmers, who represent about two-thirds of the working population and are the most active in the protests, will not be free from other controls and sanctions.

The EU Parliament is expected to vote on the proposed measures at the end of April.

Environmentalists and climate campaigners say the EU’s policy changes forced by farmers are disappointing, warning that short-term concessions will destabilize the bloc in an age when climate change will have a major impact on the continent.



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