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Baltic farmers gather in Brussels with songs and posters demanding fairer direct payments

Photo: Edijs Palens/LETA.
 BRUSSELS, Nov 22 - Ahead of Thursday's EU budget talks in Brussels, over 100 farmers from the Baltics gathered in Schuman Square demanding fairer direct payments.

The farmers are in good spirits, singing songs and armed with posters, and are holding the Latvian, Lithuanian and Estonian flags. The demonstrators have assembled by a Soviet-era tractor, which has made its way to the European capital all the way from Tallinn, LETA has observed.

''We are against unequal conditions! We are against the unequal situation in our farms! Equal payments for all!,'' were some of the chants heard from the Baltic farmers.

Several dozen police officers are keeping a watchful eye on the protest.

The demonstrators greeted Latvian Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis and Estonian Prime Minister Andrus Ansip with ovations. It is scheduled that Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite will also visit the protestors later in the day.

The Latvian prime minister promised the Baltic farmers that he will remind his colleagues during today's meeting that a common EU market is not possible without fair competition, thus equal conditions for farmers in one of Latvia's priorities.

European Parliament Member Sandra Kalniete and Latvian Agriculture Minister Laimdota Straujuma are also present to help support the demonstrators.

The demonstration will go on for several hours today, and already has attracted relatively large interest from the foreign media.

As reported, the ''Belarus'' tractor left the Estonian capital on November 12 and stopped in various cities in Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Germany on its way to Brussels.

Latvia wants Brussels to introduce fair direct payments to farmers, stipulating that the lowest payments must constitute at least 80 percent of the average amount of the EU direct payments already in 2014. At the moment, Latvian farmers receive the smallest direct payments in the EU, LVL 63 per hectare or less, while the average figure in Europe is EUR 266 or LVL 186 per hectare.
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