From Brussels to Ireland, European farmers step up protests

Hundreds of farmers have converged on Brussels to stage a fresh wave of protests against anti-farming policies and excessive environmental rules.

Footage posted on X (formerly Twitter) showed farmers and protestors using tractors to smash their way through barricades set up by police to protect EU institutions, where agriculture ministers were due to hold meetings.

A rowdy group of farmer protesters defied the barricades, sprayed police with hay and set fires to piles of tyres and dumped manure in the streets.

See also: EU backtracks on pesticide reductions in wake of farmer protests

Officers attempted to repel the farmers by fighting back with tear gas and spraying them and their machinery with water cannons.

The latest protests on Monday (26 February) came as EU ministers gathered in Brussels to debate a series of proposals aimed at easing the pressure on farmers.

On Monday, EU farm umbrella group Copa-Cogeca sent a joint letter to Ursula Von Der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, and Alexander De Croo, prime minister of the Belgium Council presidency, calling for Brussels to put agriculture back at the core of its strategy.

The letter, sent on behalf of more than 60 farmer organisations from 27 EU member states, urges the EU’s Agriculture and Fisheries Council (Agrifish) to address the concerns raised by thousands of protesting farmers and offer a long-term outlook for the sector, including greater bargaining power for farmers in the food supply chain.

Paris show protests

Elsewhere, furious French farmers returned to Paris to demand France’s government moves faster to support their industry.

French president Emmanuel Macron opened the Paris Agriculture Fair on Saturday (24 February) to a gale of angry protests from farmers.

Riot police had to step in to shield Mr Macron from the protestors as they booed, jeered and shouted at him. Three people were arrested for causing disturbances, but later released.

Flanked by France’s farming minister, Marc Fesneau, Mr Macron appealed for calm, saying protesting farmers were not helping colleagues by breaking the [show] stands and making it impossible for the show to go ahead as normal.

Meanwhile, the Europe-wide farmer protests against the climate agenda have spread into Switzerland.

On Friday evening (23 February), farmers assembled more than 1,100 tractors across five locations near Bern and Freiburg for quiet vigils. At one nighttime protest, the farmers formed an “SOS” with their tractors, visible from the sky.

Cork protest

In Ireland, dozens of farmers staged a tractor protest on Monday morning (26 February) as part of an “Enough is enough” campaign being supported by the Irish Farmers Association.

Irish farmers gathered at Cork Airport and drove their tractors to the offices of Cork County Council, where they expressed frustration at working in an industry that has become over-regulated and being hit with by environmental rules.

The farmers also complained that Dublin Airport was being allowed to increase its capacity by 25%, while they were being asked to reduce their capacity by more than 25%.

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