Farmers protest: Major traffic disruptions expected in Brussels on Friday

Farmers protest: Major traffic disruptions expected in Brussels on Friday
A tractor during a protest of farmers against the lack of decisions in the nitrogen emission crisis in December 2021. Credit: Belga/ Kurt Desplenter

The major tractor convoy expected in Brussels on Friday 3 March will cause severe traffic disruptions across the Brussels region, the police warned.

Brussels police confirmed on Wednesday evening that major traffic disruption is likely on Friday when farmers and horticulturists from across Flanders will descend on Brussels to take action against the Flemish Government's nitrogen policy.

"The traffic problems will occur over the entire territory of the Brussels-Capital Region. We advise against coming to Brussels by car and recommend using public transport, preferably metro and train, or using other means of transport," police said in a statement.

Affected areas

From 6:00 in the morning, participants will gather at various points in the various Flemish provinces before heading to Brussels via regional roads, including Chaussée de Gand, Chaussée de Ninove, Chaussée de Louvain et Chaussée de Vilvorde.

“This will could cause traffic problems on several major traffic axes in Flanders as well. The participants' return is planned in the afternoon, via the same travel routes, and may again cause traffic disruption," the Federal Police stated on Thursday.

“We advise vehicle drivers to avoid these regional roads and the wider surroundings and to use alternative means of transport (bicycle, train) or to work from home." The routes can be viewed below on the maps shared by the police.

The traffic disruption in Brussels will likely start from 10:00 in the morning, when the Reyers tunnel, a key tunnel through which drivers come from E40 towards the city centre, will be closed.

The Cinquantenaire tunnel towards Loi, the Annie Cordy tunnel coming from Koekelberg towards the South, the Avenue du Port and the small Brussels ring road above ground will also be closed off.

It is also likely that the intersections with the small Brussels ring road and Arts-Loi, as well as the Rue de la Loi and the European district, will experience heavy traffic disruption. "The problems may persist until late afternoon," the police added.

The police will provide live updates on the demonstration and the traffic situation via its Twitter channel on Friday.

Flawed science and disinformation

With the demonstration, those in the industry are sounding the alarm on Flanders' nitrogen agreement, which they argue is causing a "socio-economic bloodbath" in the agricultural sector, and are calling for a thorough readjustment of the draft.

The draft bill has also sparked a crisis in the Flemish government. After a negotiation marathon of more than 16 hours from Tuesday to Wednesday, ministers have still not decided on this policy that is central to bringing the region's nitrogen emissions in line with EU targets.

Although an agreement had been reached a year ago, this is now fiercely contested by factions within the regional government.

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In an open letter to the Flemish parliament, 3,500 farmers highlighted "five key scientific and legal issues with the proposed policy". Among other things, it argues that a distinction between nitrogen from agriculture and nitrogen from industry "cannot be made."

"Farmers are hard workers. We don't complain but instead bear the brunt of things. But today, many of us and the sector, in general, are at risk of paying the price for a bill based on scientifically-incorrect calculation models and misinformation," Stefanie Geurts of the organisation Verenigde Veehouders said.

The group is appealing to members of the Flemish Parliament not to approve the draft. "We demand equitable treatment. If we must, if we have no other choice, then by legal means and through the Constitutional Court."

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