Farmers head to port of Antwerp while government meeting on Thursday aims for resolution
As part of the ongoing farmers' protests, nearly 500 tractors are heading towards the port of Antwerp on Tuesday morning, according to a representative of the young farmers.
"To date, we have not been sufficiently recognised as an essential sector," said Stijn Zelderloo. "With this action, we want to show our perseverance and put pressure on the political negotiations."
On Monday, Antwerp city council called for farmers who planned to block the road on Tuesday to be identified. Councillor responsible for the port Annick De Ridder called blocking access roads "totally unacceptable".
While the port authority has not noticed any disruption to shipping, the Port of Antwerp-Bruges confirmed that farmers are moving through the port. "They drive around and are not always at fixed points," a spokesperson said. "There is currently disruption to traffic at the Noordlandbrug and the Tijsmanstunnel. In addition, there are problems at the Luithagen, the Oosterweelsteenweg and the Luchtbal."
Minister president Jan Jambon said he hoped "that everyone uses common sense" in the blockade at the port of Antwerp. "We have had a constructive conversation with the agricultural organisations," he said. "There is still some technical work to be done, so we will look at that tomorrow and the day after."
Goals for meeting
The Flemish government and agricultural organisations Groene Kring, Boerenbond and Algemeen Boerensyndicaat (ABS) are scheduled to meet on Thursday at 14.00 with the intention to "conclude the final negotiations".
After three consultations with the Flemish government, Lode Ceyssens, chair of the Boerenbond, feels that the government's proposal is not sufficient. "It was not enough for us, but the minister president has committed himself to finding solutions for it," he said. "(..) The ball is very clearly in the government's court."
The Boerenbond has also made a number of proposals, especially concerning the manure action plan, the purchase of agricultural land and the nitrogen decree. "The current proposal from the Flemish government offered no guarantees. We ask for clear guarantees. These demands are not new, but the Flemish government has not met them today."
"I count on common sense returning to all levels of the government"
Hendrik Vandamme, chair of the ABS, echoed Ceyssens' sentiments. "We already made our demands known last week," he said. "What was on the table today is still insufficient. For us, the most important thing is that there will be a stop to the acquisition of agricultural land for non-agricultural purposes. There is no confirmation about this yet."
According to Vandamme, the meeting on Thursday must be "a lot more concrete" than on Monday. "We cannot keep talking. I count on common sense returning to all levels of the government."
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