Farmers converge on the European Union’s headquarters in a fresh show of force


BRUSSELS (AP) — Concrete barriers and barbed wire surrounded the European Union’s headquarters on Monday as farmers angry at red tape and competition from cheap imports drove their tractors into Brussels in a fresh show of force as the bloc’s agriculture ministers met.

Police carrying riot gear patrolled near barricades set up at the main entry points to the European Council building, where the 27-nation bloc’s agriculture ministers were gathering. Scores of tractors adorned with flags and banners were ranked in lines, snarling city traffic.

Some lamented what they see as the slow death of working the land. “Agriculture. As a child you dream of it, as an adult you die of it,” said one.

Farmers dumped a trailer load of tires a few hundred meters (yards) from the European Council building, and police brought in water cannons before the piles of rubber were set alight.

At the start of the month, a similar demonstration turned violent as farmers torched hay bales and threw eggs and firecrackers at police near a summit of EU leaders.

“We are getting ignored,” Marieke Van De Vivere, a farmer from the Ghent region in northern Belgium told The Associated Press.

She invited the ministers “to be reasonable to us, to come with us on a day to work on the field, or with the horses or with the animals, to see that it is not very easy … because of the rules they put on us.”

The protests are the latest in a series of rallies and demonstrations by farmers across Europe.

On Saturday, French President Emmanuel Macron was greeted with boos and whistles at the opening of the Paris Agricultural Fair by farmers who claim that he’s not doing enough to support them. Spain, the Netherlands and Bulgaria have been hit by protests in recent weeks.

The movement has gathered pace as political parties campaign for Europe-wide elections on June 6-9. It’s already had results. Earlier this month, the EU’s executive branch shelved an anti-pesticide proposal in a concession to the farmers, which make up an important voting constituency.


Lorne Cook in Brussels contributed to this report.

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