Police use water cannon on farmers at EU protest
€500m aid announced but farms face crisis
Belgian police fired water cannon at protesting farmers who lobbed eggs, apples and fireworks as they demanded EU intervention to help with an income crisis for farm families.
The European Commission announced a €500m aid package to help ease pressure as agriculture ministers held crisis talks in Brussels. The aid proposals were prepared by Irish Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan, but had to be presented by an EU colleague as Mr Hogan was absent due to illness.
Police estimated 5,000 farmers, with 1,500 tractors, blocked streets in Brussels around the heavily-guarded EU headquarters. The police briefly fired water cannon as protesters set fire to planks of wood and tyres, sending up thick black smoke.
The demonstrators were mainly from Belgium, Netherlands, Germany and France.
But a strong Irish contingent protesting peacefully included representatives from the IFA and ICMSA.
The crisis has hit all farm sectors but it has especially affected dairy and pigmeat producers. A paper prepared by Commissioner Hogan said the crisis was down to a combination of factors including a Russian import ban on EU food, worth €5.5bn; poor demand from markets like China; a world over-supply of milk; and problems with drought and disease in some member states.
Albert Jan Maat, president of European farmers association Copa, said EU farmers were paying the price for international politics. IFA leader Eddie Downey and the ICMSA's John Comer both called for a rise in dairy intervention prices as the only real long-term solution.
But the EU aid package did not include this - and Brussels officials insisted intervention buying was not the remedy.