In pictures: Farmers spray manure and throw beets to protest EU agricultural policy

A protestor walks by a fire burning in a stairwell near the metro station during a demonstration outside the European Council building in Brussels, Tuesday 26 March.
A protestor walks by a fire burning in a stairwell near the metro station during a demonstration outside the European Council building in Brussels, Tuesday 26 March. Copyright AP Photo/Harry Nakos
By Rosie Frost
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Police used tear gas and water cannons to keep the violence at bay as the entryway to a subway station was set alight.

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Farmers protests in Brussels turned violent this week as EU agricultural ministers met to try and quell the ongoing crisis.

Months of rallies have taken place across Europe from Finland to Greece, Poland and Ireland. Demonstrations again came to a head in Brusselsthis week when farmers threw beets, sprayed police with manure and set hay alight close to the European Union headquarters.

Police used tear gas and water cannons to keep the violence at bay. Farmers set the entryway to a subway station alight and one person was arrested for throwing Molotov cocktails at security personnel. 

Dozens of tractors sealed off streets as 27 EU farm ministers met to try and push through measures to calm the crisis. There were fewer than during February’s rallies but the reasons for their protests remain largely the same - objection to environmental policy and cheap food imports from Ukraine.

“The violence, arson and destruction during the protests are unacceptable,” Interior Minister Annelies Verlinden said, insisting the guilty would be prosecuted.

Why are farmers protesting across Europe?

Farmers are protesting against what they see as excessive red tape and unfair rules including many environmental policies. Relentless action across the bloc has already seen concessions including the loosening of pesticide rules.

A major EU plan to protect nature was postponed indefinitely on Monday showing the impact these demonstrations are having on green measures. Member states were supposed to give final approval on the already watered-down bill but, with the European elections looming in June, the Nature Restoration Law is on hold for now

It is a key part of the European Green Deal which aims to make Europe the first climate-neutral continent by 2050.

Member states also gave provisional approval to proposals that would weaken rules on practices like crop rotation and soil protection on Tuesday. The European Commission announced a few weeks ago a review of environmental standards linked to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and said it would simplify the bureaucracy around agricultural subsidies.

Small farms - those with less than 10 hectares of land - are set to benefit the most from the new rules. The Parliament is expected to decide on these proposals in late April but some farmers say it is too little too late.

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