Climate Coalition chair: Nature and agriculture not enemies in farmers' protest

The president of the Climate Coalition LDE, Nicolas Van Nuffel, addressed attempts to pit the agricultural sector and nature conservation against each other. He alluded to the conservative parties using the ongoing farmers' protests as a political platform on Thursday morning in Brussels. In Place du Luxembourg, where the protests have intensified, a statue honouring John Cockerill, a Belgian-British industrialist, was removed from its pedestal during the night from Wednesday to Thursday.

Toppled statue of John Cockerill in Place du Luxembourg © BELGA PHOTO WIM DEMEULENAERE
Toppled statue of John Cockerill in Place du Luxembourg © BELGA PHOTO WIM DEMEULENAERE

According to a count by the Brussels-Capital Ixelles police zone, around 1,300 tractors drove through the streets of Brussels on Thursday morning as part of a protest against several European measures relating to the agri-food sector, including the proposed EU-Mercosur trade agreement. The protest was organised at the same time as a European summit to discuss farmers' discontent across the EU.

Van Nuffel said the Climate Coalition LDE was on the side of the farming community. "It is precisely by joining forces that we can get things moving," he said, adding that the agricultural sector and nature conservation are "part of the same struggle".

Moreover, farmers are not asking for an end to the ambitions of the EU Green Deal but want support in this transition, Van Nuffel said. Like climate activists, they side "against agreements like Mercosur, which pit the huge agro-industry of Brazil and Argentina against our family farms".


France has also reaffirmed its long-standing opposition to the EU-Mercosur trade deal and announced on Monday that the European Commission had stopped negotiating a trade deal with the Mercosur group of South American countries.

If approved, the deal could result in a massive influx of 99,000 tonnes of tariff-free beef into the EU. Farmers have raised concerns about the environmental impact of such a surge in imports, highlighting the potential carbon footprint associated with it.

The farmers' demands include rejecting free trade agreements like EU-Mercosur, simplifying administrative processes, challenging what they perceive as incomprehensible European standards, and advocating for fair prices for products sold to agribusiness. The protests underscore the urgency of addressing these issues to ensure the viability and sustainability of European agriculture.


Hundreds of farmers gather on Thursday morning at Place du Luxembourg in front of the European Parliament © PHOTO VIRGINIE NGUYEN HOANG/HANS LUCAS

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