Saturday

28th May 2016

Second day of milk protests in EU capital

  • Tractors blocked Rue Belliard on Tuesday morning (Photo: EMB)

EU officials trying to get to work on Tuesday (27 November) faced a second day of problems as hundreds of tractors blocked main roads to the institutions.

The protest - organised by the European Milk Board (EMB), a German-based trade association - shut down three out of four lanes on the Rue de la Loi leading to the European Commission and EU Council buildings and closed Rue Belliard beside the European Parliament.

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The EMB said 2,500 farmers from 14 EU countries have brought between 800 and 1,000 tractors to Brussels in protest at falling milk prices and EU plans to phase out subsidies by 2015.

It noted that in Belgium it costs €0.40 to make a litre of milk compared to a wholesale price of €0.26.

Some of the largest contingents came from Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, Poland and Spain.

"Tuesday's big protest, in front of the EU institutions, will by symbolic and more calm than spraying milk on their facades. They must understand that in recent years, 150,00 producers have closed their doors, 3,000 of them in Belgium," Erwin Schopges, the head of EMB's Belgian branch told Belgian broadcaster RTBF.

"It's very simple: you can't live off milk any more. If I go on, it's thanks to European aid ... If they do it [phase out subsidies] there will be no more small and medium producers here in five years," French farmer Leopold Gruget told AFP.

On Monday, the protesters unloaded 15,000 litres of milk on parliament buildings beside the Place du Luxembourg.

They also camped out in the square overnight, setting fire to a pile of tyres and hay and drinking beer as police looked on.

The farmers are to begin leaving the EU capital at 1pm local time on Tuesday.

The EU currently spends around 40 percent of its €130-billion-a-year budget on agricultural subsidies.

But northern countries want to cut farm spending in the 2014 to 2020 budget period in favour of more spending on research and industry.

Finance ministers baulk at tax-avoidance rules

Member states will discuss again in June a proposed directive to outlaw practices used by large companies to avoid paying taxes. Meanwhile, the European Parliament makes progress on its probe of Panama Papers.

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