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EU to cut red tape for farmers after massive protests

Xinhua | Updated: 2024-02-28 01:48

Police use a water cannon during a protest of European farmers over price pressures, taxes and green regulation, on the day of an EU Agriculture Ministers meeting in Brussels, Belgium on Feb 26. [Photo/Agencies]

BRUSSELS -- The European Union (EU) agriculture ministers have agreed to simplify regulations in response to massive ongoing protests by farmers in the bloc, it was announced on Monday evening.

"We are listening to farmers and we hear them loud and clear," said David Clarinval, Belgian deputy prime minister and minister for agriculture.

"The priorities for simplification measures we agreed on will reduce the administrative burden on farmers and give them the flexibility they need," he said after a meeting of the Agriculture and Fisheries (Agrifish) Council.

European farmers have been complaining about red tape, saying it takes them up to two full days of work to complete paperwork each week. This keeps them away from their actual work in the field, they say.

On Monday, 900 tractors took to the streets of Brussels, blocking the area around the European institutions.

The farmers have been protesting for weeks. As well as red tape, they are also speaking out against free trade agreements (FTAs), saying their non-EU counterparts are not subjected to the same strict rules, which creates unfair competition since non-EU agriproducts, they say, sold in the EU are cheaper.

"Our demands are fair prices and the end of FTAs," said European Coordination Via Campesina (ECVC), the EU farmers collective that organized the Brussels protests, adding that they were disappointed by Clarinval's declaration after the Agrifish Council.

A delegation of farmers was received by the Belgian presidency of the EU Council, and by Janusz Wojciechowski, European Commissioner in charge of agriculture.

President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen's cabinet agreed to find a date to meet the ECVC.

Other demands by farmers include the regulation of markets and strengthening of the directive on unfair trading practices, using the Spanish food chain law as a positive example; ensuring a sufficient budget and an equitable distribution of EU's Common Agricultural Policy aid to facilitate a fair transition towards agroecology and sustainable practices; and stopping the deregulation of genetically modified organisms and new genomic techniques.

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