Belgian farmers to blockade port, mirroring French protests
Belgian farmers, frustrated by escalating costs, EU environmental policies, and cheap food imports, are planning to block access to Zeebrugge, the country's second-largest container port, on Tuesday. This action, confirmed by the port and reported by De Tijd, a financial daily, follows similar protests in France.
Members of the Algemeen Boerensyndicaat (ABS, General Farmers Syndicate) union, the organizers, aim to obstruct the North Sea port's access roads for at least 36 hours starting in the early afternoon. ABS has urged its members to participate in the blockade. The port's choice as the protest target stems from the farmers' perception that it benefits from economic support at the expense of agriculture.
A port authority spokesperson reported receiving information about the planned action at Zeebrugge but noted the specifics and potential consequences remain unclear. He also mentioned indirect communication with the organizers through police channels.
The Belgian protest has gained momentum from similar actions in France, where farmers have created numerous roadblocks around Paris, significantly pressuring the government. Additionally, on Tuesday morning, Belgian farmers caused traffic disruptions, including a blockade near the Dutch border on the E19 highway.
Prime Minister Alexander De Croo, scheduled to meet with farmers' associations on Tuesday, emphasized the importance of addressing their concerns. He mentioned that Belgium, holding the current presidency of the Council of the EU, will engage in discussions about European agricultural rules with the European Commission.
In central Brussels, a group of protesting farmers, who have parked tractors in a city square, plan to remain at least until Thursday, coinciding with an EU leaders' summit. Nicolas Fryers, one of the protesters, expressed the need for a review of EU laws, citing the challenges of greener practices and the possibility of unworked land.
On Tuesday, the European Commission announced plans to propose an exemption regarding rules that require farmers to leave part of their land fallow for EU subsidies. These rules on fallow land have been central to the recent wave of protests in France and other regions. Earlier, on Monday, farmers in southern Belgium blocked highways and positioned tractors near the EU Parliament in Brussels.