Tractor Protests: Brussels will cut red tape burden

Tractor Protests: Brussels will cut red tape burden

The European Union handed a victory to Europe's protesting farmers on Thursday with Ursula von der Leyen saying Brussels will ease 'administrative burdens'.

The President of the European Commission's concession came after days of tractor blockades across the continent which have caused chaos on roads and in cities as farmers expressed anger over excessive costs, climate policies and bureaucracy.

Speaking from the EU's Brussels headquarters, Von der Leyen said a proposal 'to work on reducing these administrative burdens' would be presented at an upcoming meeting of EU ministers.

Outside, furious farmers threw manure and flaming missiles at riot cops, as shops in Belgium admitted they may soon have empty shelves due to the protests.

Convoys with hundreds of angry agricultural workers driving heavy-duty tractors blockaded the HQ, hell-bent on having their complaints heard by the bloc's leaders.

Thursday, the farmers mounted their vehicles and entered the Belgian capital to the rumble of engines, fireworks and blaring horns, in the culmination of weeks of protests in Europe.

The square in front of the EU Parliament became filled with tractors, and farmers set up bonfires and toppled statues.

As riot cops stood guard behind barricades and staffers watched from the front steps, the angry farmers hurled eggs, manure and stones at the building.

Major thoroughfares in Brussels, the heart of the European Union, were blocked by around 1,000 tractors, according to a police estimate, in scenes that have also taken place in other European countries this week.

With thick smoke from burning bales of hay hanging over parts of Belgian capital, security forces used water cannons to douse fires and keep a farmer from felling a tree on the steps of the European Parliament.

Jean-Francois Ricker, a farmer from southern Belgium who braved the winter night close to EU headquarters, said he expected 1,000 to 1,400 vehicles in the city.

'There will be a lot of people, we are going to show that we do not agree and that it is enough, but our aim is not to demolish everything.'

Kevin Bertens, a farmer from just outside Brussels, said: 'If you see with how many people we are here, and if you see it's all over Europe, so you must have hope.

'We must have hope that these people see that farming is necessary.

'It's the food, you know,' he added.

Farmers blocked more traffic arteries across Belgium, France and Italy on Wednesday, as they tried to disrupt trade at major ports and other economic lifelines to drive their message home to their governments, as well as Brussels.

The protests had an immediate impact on Wednesday - the European Commission, the EU's executive branch, announced plans to shield farmers from cheap exports from Ukraine during wartime and allow farmers to use some land that had been forced to lie fallow for environmental reasons.

The plans still need to be approved by the bloc's 27 member states and European Parliament, but they amounted to a sudden and symbolic concession.

'I just would like to reassure them that we do our utmost to listen to their concerns. I think we are addressing two very important (concerns) of them right now,' European Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic said.

The French government has dropped plans to gradually reduce subsidies on agricultural diesel and promised more aid.

But farmers say that is not enough.