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Dutch farmers, climate activists hold protests in The Hague

March 11, 2023

Thousands of farmers and anti-establishment demonstrators protested in The Hague against government plans to cut nitrate emissions. At the same time, climate activists blocked a main road elsewhere in the city.

Demonstrators during an action by Farmers Defense Force FDF in the Zuiderpark in The Hague
Image: Robin Utrecht/ANP/IMAGO

More than 10,000 Dutch farmers protested in The Hague on Saturday against the government's plans to limit nitrogen emissions

The protests took place ahead of the March 15 provincial elections, which will indirectly select members of the national parliament's upper house and could have an effect on proposals for reducing nitrate pollution.

Farmers claim 'there is no nitrogen problem'

Police said they stopped an unknown number of tractors that were headed for the farmers' demonstration. The city banned all but two "symbolic" tractors from participating, citing safety concerns.

The protesters carried banners reading "No farmers, no food," and, "There is no nitrogen 'problem'" during the peaceful demonstration organized by the Farmers' Defence Force group.

Many also waved upside-down Dutch flags, which have become synonymous with farmers' protests, and balloons with the logo of the far-right Forum for Democracy (FVD) party.

Netherlands flags fly upside-down in protest as thousands of demonstrators joined an anti-government protest by farmers' organizations in The Hague
The protest comes days before Dutch provincial elections on March 15, in which a party representing farmers' interests is expected to perform wellImage: Peter Dejong/AP Photo/picture alliance

Relatively large numbers of livestock and heavy use of fertilizers have led to levels of nitrogen oxides in the soil and water in the Netherlands and Belgium that are higher than European Union regulations allow.

The government wants to cut emissions of pollutants, predominantly nitrates, by 50% nationwide by 2030. Ministers call the proposal an "unavoidable transition" that aims to improve air, land and water quality, and have warned that it will mean "that not all farmers can continue their business."

Dutch farmers angry over emissions targets

Climate activists protest tax rules

Meanwhile, climate activists held a simultaneous demonstration a few kilometers away. 

Thousands of environmentalists blocked a major thoroughfare in an unauthorized protest against tax rules they say encourage the use of fossil fuels. Police used water cannon to disperse a group of about 100 of the activists, including many who were blocking a highway. 

Environmentalists, led by the climate activist group Extinction Rebellion, scaled a wall next to the road they had blocked to hang a banner reading, "Stop fossil subsidies."

Protesters are demanding an end to fuel tax exemptions for oil refineries and coal plants, introduced to avoid double taxation, as well as exemptions for the aviation and shipping industries that were agreed at the EU level.

The twin demonstrations prompted authorities to place army trucks near some crossroads to block the streets if tractors or other protest vehicles tried to drive into the city center.

dh/fb (AP, Reuters)