Belgian PM plans talks with farmers as protests intensify
As farmers' protests spread from Wallonia to the rest of Belgium on Monday, prime minister Alexander De Croo announced that he would hold talks with farmers on Tuesday.
Belgian farmers have been staging spontaneous actions and filter blockades since Sunday evening against strict European environmental rules and cheap competition from abroad.
The actions are part of wider protests in several European countries, including France and Germany, for better prices and less stringent European standards.
De Croo will receive farmers' interest groups for talks at 17.00 on Tuesday, his office said on Monday. Agriculture minister David Clarinval will also attend the talks.
Actions in Wallonia, Brussels and Flanders
Walloon farmers have been blocking the E19 near Halle since Sunday evening, causing major traffic disruption on the Brussels ring road. At around 18.00 on Monday evening, the protest spread to the A12 motorway between Antwerp and Brussels.
Disruption is also expected in Brussels this week as farmers plan to protest in the European district ahead of an EU summit on Thursday.
While most of the actions have taken place in Wallonia, the Flemish farmers' union Boerenbond plans to join the protests from Tuesday, with initial actions planned in the province of Antwerp.
Dozens of other "sting operations" are also being prepared across Flanders for the coming weeks, said Boerenbond spokesperson Elisabeth Mertens.
In addition, more spontaneous actions, not organised by official unions, are taking place in Flanders. The R4 ring road was temporarily blocked in the Ghent district of Wondelgem on Monday evening, and a blockade of Zeebrugge is also being planned.
Police 'committed to dialogue'
Police are not intervening by force but are committed to dialogue with farmers and interest groups, Home Affairs minister Annelies Verlinden said on Monday. Verlinden said she understood the farmers' grievances, but called for the protests to be carried out safely.
In France, where farmers have been protesting for more than a week, farmers have again been blocking several motorways around Paris since 14.00 on Monday. French farmers are protesting against falling incomes, red tape and changing or overly strict regulations.
French president Emmanuel Macron will meet European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen on Thursday to discuss the agricultural crisis, the Elysée said on Monday.
Farmers also blocked several roads to ports in Germany, including Hamburg on Monday. German farmers are protesting against the abolition of a tax break.
A protest at the Daussoulx junction of the E40 and E411 motorways, organised by Wallonia's federation of young farmers, FJA, 29 January 2024 © BELGA PHOTO ERIC LALMAND