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Fishermen clash with police in Brussels

Latest update : 2008-06-04

European fishermen protesting high fuel prices clashed with police outside the main EU building in Brussels, breaking windows and glass doors before the demonstrations were dispersed.

European fishermen protesting against high fuel prices clashed with police Wednesday outside the main EU buildings in Brussels.
  
Small groups of around a dozen protestors, from countries like France, Italy and Spain, used paving stones and bricks to break windows on the European Commission's agriculture offices and a bank.
  
Windows and glass doors were also broken on the European Council building -- the headquarters where ministers from the 27 EU nations regularly meet -- and red paint graffiti was daubed on its walls.
  
The protestors, who had numbered around 200, were broken up by police, who chased some of them into adjacent streets.
  
An AFP reporter saw two people taken into custody, as police with riot gear stood by, along the flare- and beer can-littered main roads leading to the Belgian capital's European quarter. Witnesses said more had been detained.
  
Three underground stations in the area were closed.
  
The protest comes with French fishermen on strike for three weeks over the cost of marine diesel. They have been joined by fleets from Britain, Spain, Portugal and Italy, although some Spanish fishermen returned to work on Monday.
  
Strikes and protests by truck drivers have also taken place across Europe.
  
"We've come to say that we can't work with diesel prices the way they are right now," said Ange Morello, representing fishermen from Sete in southern France.
  
"We would rather be working, but with these prices it's just not possible."
  
He said that up to 6,000 fishermen had been expected to converge on Brussels. Some protestors said that several hundred fishermen were blocked in their buses by police in other parts of the city.
  
A commission fisheries spokeswoman said around 30 protestors' representatives had met with senior EU fishing officials and "expressed a lot of distress, and we are listening carefully", but she said the EU could provide no quick fix.
  
"There are virtually no immediate answers," she said. "We support the restructuring of the sector because the commission's goal is to have a viable fishing sector, so that should happen through medium-term solutions."
  
She underlined that Brussels had said last week that it would be flexible in allowing EU countries to help their fishing industries, but that fuel subsidies for fishermen would not be permitted.
  
The commission polices competition issues and any state aid is closely watched from Brussels to see whether it would distort markets.
  

Date created : 2008-06-04

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