There have been violent scuffles in Brussels between riot police and angry fishermen protesting against the soaring price of fuel. Violence erupted following a meeting on Wednesday morning with the European Commission which said it could not provide an immediate solution.
The so-called “EU quarter” of the city was sealed off to traffic amid fears of trouble. Hundreds of fishermen, mostly from France and Italy, occupied the district’s main avenue and, after a morning stand-off, a smaller group fired flares at the police who immediately charged them.
The fishermen are angry at the Commission’s refusal to subsidise the price of fuel. Many say they will go bust unless they obtain discounted diesel. Pledges by Brussels to fund long-term measures to help restructure the industry will not resolve the current complaints, say the fishermen: “Each measure we’ve put forward has been rejected by the European Union,” said one French fisherman, “so now it’s up to them to come up with a solution. Now we are here and we’re expecting many more people from other countries so they will have to sort something out because we won’t leave until a solution is found.”
A number of ports across Europe have been blocked in recent days as fishermen demand government action to curb soaring fuel prices and ease strict EU fishing limits. EU leaders have pledged to discuss the impact of high oil prices on the fisheries sector at a summit next week, and Paris is due to hold talks with various parties on June 10.