Farmers threw eggs and stones at the European Parliament in Brussels on Thursday, started fires near the building and set off fireworks as they demanded EU leaders do more to help them with taxes and rising costs.

With anger against green regulations and cheap imports shared among farmers across Europe, protesters from Italy, Spain and other European countries took part in the Brussels demonstration, which coincided with an EU summit nearby, as well as holding protests at home.

While local grievances also vary, the growing unrest, also seen in Portugal, Greece or Germany, exposes tensions over the EU’s drive to tackle climate change.

“We want to stop these crazy laws that come every single day from the European Commission,” Jose Maria Castilla, a farmer representing the Spanish farmers’ union Asaja, said in Brussels.

The protests across Europe come as the far right, for whom farmers represent a growing constituency, is seen making gains in June’s European Parliament elections. Leaders are trying to quell the anger.

“Everywhere in Europe the same question arises: how do we continue to produce more but better? How can we continue to tackle climate change? How can we avoid unfair competition from foreign countries?,” French Prime Minister Gabriel Attal said, as he announced new measures in Paris.

Attal promised to make life easier for farmers and better protect them at French and EU level, including by banning cheap imports of products that use a pesticide forbidden in Europe and making sure food labels clearly state if produce is imported. More aid for farmers is also on the way, he said.


Farmers have already secured several measures, including the bloc’s executive Commission proposals to limit farm imports from Ukraine and loosen some environmental regulations on fallow lands, which several EU leaders welcomed as they arrived at the summit.

But they say this is not enough, and that they are choked by taxes and green rules and face unfair competition from abroad.

“European elections are coming and politicians are super nervous and also the European Commission. And I think that this is the best moment that together all the European farmers take to the street,” Spanish farmer Castilla added.

While the farmers’ crisis is not officially on the agenda of the EU summit, which so far has focused on aid to Ukraine, an EU diplomat said the situation with the farmers was set to be discussed later in the day.

“It’s all over Europe, so you must have hope,” Kevin Bertens, a farmer from just outside Brussels, said at the protests in the Belgian capital. “You need us. Help us!”

Small groups tried to tear down the barriers erected in front of parliament – a few blocks from where the summit was taking place – but police fired tear gas and sprayed water at the farmers with hoses to push them back.

A statue on the square was damaged and major thoroughfares in Brussels were blocked by around 1,300 tractors, according to a police estimate. Security personnel in riot gear stood guard behind barriers where the leaders were meeting at European Council headquarters.

The pockets of unrest diminished during the day, but farmers continued to heckle towards them.


In Portugal, farmers made their way to the Spanish border at dawn to block some of the roads linking the two countries.

In France, farmers headed towards the lower house of parliament in Paris while drone footage showed a huge convoy of tractors on an motorway near Jossigny as others blocked highways around the French capital.

Hundreds of Greek farmers with black flags – to symbolise what they say is the death of agriculture – drove their tractors across the centre of Greece’s second-biggest city Thessaloniki.

“No farmers, no food, no future” one banner read. One tractor was carrying a black coffin.

As he arrived at the EU summit, Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said farmers’ grievances should be discussed.

“They offer products of high quality, we also need to make sure that they can get the right price for the high quality products that they provide,” he said.

Meanwhile, Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar echoed French President Emmanuel Macron’s opposition to signing a trade deal with the Mercosur group of South American countries in its current form – another key demand for farmers.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, in disagreement with other EU leaders on many issues, made a point of meeting farmers overnight.

“We need to find new leaders who truly represent the interests of the people,” his spokesman quoted him as saying, referring to the European Parliament elections.