Around 200 Lithuanian, Estonian and Latvian milk producers gathered on Thursday morning in Brussels, near the Schuman roundabout, to call for more fairness in the allocation of EU subsidies.
This is the start of a day of protests which will see farmers from across Europe gather in Brussels to protest. As of 1:00 PM, protests had still been dominated by the baltic group, who had positioned themselves at the edge of Schuman roundabout, holding speeches, songs and dances in the otherwise quiet district.
“Even if the situation is less catastrophic than it was 10 years ago, in every European country farmers are chasing a milk price that covers production costs and provides a fair income,” said Guy Francq, President of the Belgian Milk Producers’ Group (MIG).
As long as this deficit persists, producers will remain dependent on subsidies. However, subsidies vary between EU countries. In 2017, for example, Baltic farmers received only 54 to 60% of the EU average in direct payments.
“Direct payments are lower, but our products must meet the same requirements,” said Jonas Vilionis, President of the Lithuanian Milk Producers’ Association (LPGA), in a press release. “Our farmers must meet the same standards of environmental protection, animal welfare and food safety as producers in other EU countries, without being compensated accordingly.”
The European Milk Board (EMB), the umbrella organisation of European milk producers, of which the MIG is a member, has said it supports the demands of Baltic farmers.
While around 10 tractors had gathered by 1:00 PM, about 100 tractors are expected to appear throughout Thursday, as farmers protest the cut in the future EU budget that will be discussed at the special EU summit.
“They will gather in front of the main entrance of Parc Cinquantenaire, as they cannot arrive in front of the Council building and Schuman roundabout,” said Anne Petre, a spokesperson for the Walloon Farmers Association (FWA).
The initial aim was to gather on Schuman, in front of the Council building, but as security perimeters will be set up around Rond Point Schuman, the farmers will get as close as they can on Rue de la Loi in the “free expression zone.”