EU presidency: Agriculture ministers respond to farmers' protests, call for further measures

European agriculture ministers met on Monday under intense pressure from hundreds of protesting farmers who occupied the European quarter in Brussels. The ministers backed proposals by the EU Commission to cut red tape for farmers in the short term, but said Europe's response to the crisis in the sector should go further.

Belgian Agriculture minister David Clarinval chaired the meeting under Belgium's EU presidency. "The Council believes that these proposals go in the right direction," he said. "It is a first step towards a rapid response at European level to the situation farmers are facing, but it is not enough."

Administrative burden

The Commission - which has the right of initiative when it comes to European regulation - has already outlined a number of short-term measures to reduce the administrative burden on farmers.

These include reducing the amount of arable land converted to permanent pasture and reducing the number of farm visits by national authorities. European agriculture ministers support the proposals, but are urging the Commission to add new, more ambitious measures.

In addition, a majority of member states expressed support for adjusting the sustainability requirements of the Common Agricultural Policy. This includes specific adjustments to minimum soil cover requirements, crop rotation on agricultural land and fallow land requirements.

After the meeting, the Belgian Presidency and Agriculture Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski received a delegation of farmers.

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Farmers break police barricades as 900 tractors drive through Brussels
900 tractors arrived in Brussels on Monday for the ongoing farmers' protests, according to police. Several farmers broke through police barricades earlier in the morning and threw eggs at the Lex building, one of the European institutions near the Schuman roundabout.

In the midst of the discussions, there were violent scenes in the European quarter as angry farmers tried to break through police cordons and block roads. Clarinval condemned the violence, saying it could only be counterproductive. Interior minister Annelies Verlinden warned that police would identify the rioters.


Belgium's minister for Agriculture David Clarinval (centre), chairing the EU Council meeting, during a meeting with European Representatives of Young Farmers © PHOTO JOHN THYS / AFP

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