The European Union handed a victory to Europe’s protesting farmers today with Ursula von der Leyen saying Brussels will ease ‘administrative burdens’.
The President of the European Commission’s concession came after days of tractor blockades across the continent which have caused chaos on roads and in cities as farmers expressed anger over excessive costs, climate policies and bureaucracy.
Speaking from the EU’s Brussels headquarters, Von der Leyen said a proposal ‘to work on reducing these administrative burdens’ would be presented at an upcoming meeting of EU ministers.
The farmers this morning mounted their vehicles and entered the Belgian capital to the rumble of engines, fireworks and blaring horns, in the culmination of weeks of protests in Europe.
The square in front of the EU Parliament became filled with tractors and descended into chaos as farmers set up bonfires and toppled statues.
As riot cops stood guard behind barricades and staffers watched from the front steps, the angry farmers hurled eggs, manure and stones at the building.
Major thoroughfares in Brussels, the heart of the European Union, were blocked by around 1,000 tractors, according to a police estimate, in scenes of unrest that have also taken place in other European countries this week.
The impact of the protests is already being felt on supply chains.
Centres located in Ollignies, Ghislenghien and Halle in central western Belgium – which supply Colruyt’s Belgian shops with dry food, water and drinks, and fresh and frozen products – were no longer accessible.
‘At the moment, stock is still available in our shops… (but) it is inevitable that products will eventually be missing from the shelves,’ Colruyt said in a statement.
Security personnel in riot gear stood guard behind barriers at the EU headquarters where the leaders are due to meet, primarily about a new support package to send to Ukraine for its on-going, gruelling war against Russia.
Leaders agreed a deal on giving the war-torn country a new support package, but Belgian prime minister Alexander De Croo said the farmers’ demands needed to be addressed.
‘We also need to make sure that they can get the right price for the high quality products that they provide. We also need to make sure that the administrative burden that they have remains reasonable,’ said Mr De Croo, whose country currently holds the presidency of the EU.