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Tractor procession heads for Brussels as farmers strike across Belgium

08:56 01/02/2024

Farmers across Belgium are continuing their strike in coordinated actions, mirroring similar movements taking place in France and Germany as the industry – family farms in particular – struggles to stay profitable.

Actions included blockades of major highways and intersections - including the A12 motorway - and a tractor procession into the capital is planned for Thursday.

Some 17 tractors have already been present on Square De Meeûss near the European Parliament since Monday morning, and honking has been heard throughout the surrounding neighbourhoods.

Farmers denounce the economic difficulties associated with their profession, the administrative red tape in the sector, the impact of various environmental measures, and European import policy.

“We're proud of our job, we're proud of our work,” farmer Alexandre Wackers told RTL. “We hear politicians say they're proud of their farmers, and now we'd like them to show us.”

Belgium’s interior minister Annelies Verlinden (CD&V) said she understands the complaints of farmers, but at the same time appealed for the protests to be conducted safely.

“I don't have to tell anyone that you don't just move a tractor or other heavy equipment or prevent it from getting anywhere, it is for that reason that we deploy as much as possible on dialogue and making good agreements,” Verlinden said.

The minister suggested that motorists could be startled by a column of slow-moving agricultural vehicles on the motorway, emphasising that police and emergency services should always be able to get through smoothly, and that supplies to petrol stations and supermarkets should not be compromised.

“[Farmers] must and will make their voices heard, including in places that are symbolically important to them,” Verlinden said. “We have a culture of demonstrations in our country, but we must always do this with respect for each other and for other people's property.”

Brussels has seen major traffic disruption due to the protests and tractor processions, with travellers advised to take public transport, although some Stib lines are also expecting disruptions.

Many bus lines are being diverted and some metro entrances at Schuman station will be closed, although the metro station itself will remain open, as the farmers' protest coincides with the latest EU summit.

Other traffic disruptions included the closure of the E42 motorway at the Daussoulx interchange (near Namur), a roadblock in Halle at the end of the A8/E429 motorway, and the total closure of the Brussels ring road (R0) in both directions between Huizingen and Ittre.

In Walloon Brabant, Motorway A7/E19 to Brussels was closed at Haut-Ittre with a diversion via the Brussels ring.

Farmers have also blocked the access roads to the port of Zeebrugge.

Prime minister Alexander De Croo and agriculture minister David Clarinval held a meeting with farmers on Tuesday evening.

Photo: Hatim Kaghat/Belga

Written by Helen Lyons



Agriculture is EU business but European Commission stays invisible. The European agriculture policy strives for productivity and facilitates concentration and fusion so that small farmers have difficulties to survive.. But free trade and Ukrainian imports makes life even more difficult for farmers. It’s not the national governments to change that but the European Commission. It must be clear that subsidies are no longer linked to not the size of farms but to environmental protection.

Feb 1, 2024 13:52