Antwerp port blockade looms as farmers meet Flemish government
Amid reports of a possible blockade at the port of Antwerp, Flemish minister president Jan Jambon met with representatives of several farming organisations on Monday afternoon. Farmers are demanding solutions from the government regarding administrative simplification and the protection of farmland.
Recent messages circulating in chat groups among farmers have hinted at possible protests, including blockades of access roads to Belgium's largest port, with actions possibly starting as early as 5.00. However, the organisations insisted that any action would be "individual" and "spontaneous" and not organised by them.
Ahead of the meeting with Jambon, the farmers' representatives said they hoped for concrete solutions. "I hope that after this consultation we can come up with concrete solutions and that we can present a story that makes sense," said Algemeen Boerensyndicaat (ABS) chair Hendrik Vandamme, who stressed the need to restrict non-agricultural use of farmland and to increase administrative efficiency for farmers.
"I hope that after this consultation we can come up with concrete solutions and that we can present a story that makes sense"
Following several recent protests in the Antwerp port area, the Flemish government is hoping to stave off another major protest on Tuesday. Previous blockades at the merged ports of Zeebrugge and Antwerp have already caused significant economic damage. In recent weeks, farmers have mainly targeted Zeebrugge, the Waaslandhaven, the Noordzee terminal and the area around German chemical giant BASF.
While according to public broadcaster VRT, the Flemish government reached an agreement on measures to discuss with farmers' organisations to preempt new protests, details have not been disclosed. Jambon and other officials have repeatedly spoken with farmers' representatives in recent weeks. However, internal divisions within the government complicate the process, leaving farmers awaiting concrete solutions.
On Wednesday, Jambon expressed ambition in parliament to conclude an agreement between the government parties "within a few days".
#FlandersNewsService | A previous protest action near the Port of Antwerp in Beveren © BELGA PHOTO DIRK WAEM