Firecrackers, eggs and beer bottles: Thousands of tractor-riding farmers protest outside EU summit

The protests on Thursday are a culmination of demonstrations that have been happening across days, weeks and even months in certain EU countries. Credit: AP

Thousands of tractors descended on Brussels, Belgium, on Thursday as angry farmers sought to make a point about their working conditions at an EU summit.

Burning hay bales produced thick plumes of smoke near the steps of the European Parliament, where security forces used water cannons to douse fires and stop one farmer from felling a tree.

Anti-riot police use water to disperse people during a protest by farmers outside the European Parliament. Credit: AP

A bronze statue was also pulled off its pedestal and scorched before security officials could intervene.

Officials trying to police the demonstrations were pelted with firecrackers, eggs and beer bottles.

Leaders from across the EU attended the summit to discuss a new €50 billion (£42.7 billion) aid package for Ukraine, which was eventually given the go-ahead following threats of a veto by Hungary.

A man throws an egg towards police officers during a protest by farmers by the European Parliament as European leaders meet in Brussels. Credit: AP

The protests are a culmination of demonstrations that have been happening across days, weeks and even months in certain EU countries.

Earlier this week, French farmers aimed to put Paris "under siege" as tractors encircled the capital with barricades to persuade the government to do more to protect the country's agricultural sector from foreign competition, rising costs and low pay.

People gather outside the European Parliament during a protest by farmers as European leaders meet for an EU summit in Brussels. Credit: AP

Two of the key French farmers unions decided to suspend protests and lift road blockades on Thursday after the country's Prime Minister Gabriel Attal announced a new set of measures, on top of other promises made in recent days.

Farmers have also been up in arms in Germany, The Netherlands, Italy, Poland and Romania, campaigning on domestic issues exacerbated by supply and demand challenges caused by Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Farmers run their tractors in Milan, Italy. Credit: AP

Increased energy and fertiliser costs have been an unwanted repercussion of the conflict, while countries' attempts to hit climate change goals have also been at odds with many farmers' plans.

There is also the impacts of climate change, with droughts, floods and fires having decimated swaths of crops across the 27-nation bloc.


Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know…