Latvia launches veggie offensive against Brussels
(RIGA) - Latvian authorities have sprouted a green-thumb planting vegetables in flower beds outside government offices in Riga as part of a push for higher direct farm subsidies from the European Union.
Government ministers in Riga on Tuesday ceremoniously pulled away sheeting to reveal that normally manicured flower beds had been dug up and replaced with a choice selection of vegetables including beets, cabbages, beans and pumpkins.
"Today we have planted our vegetables and this autumn we hope to reap our harvest with a better deal on direct payments for our farmers," Agriculture Minister Laimdota Straujuma told AFP.
Latvia and the other Baltic states are disappointed with reforms the European Commission proposed last year to the bloc's Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) as of 2013. They argue that their farmers will receive only a fraction of the cash given to other EU member states.
Latvia's farmers would receive 144 euros ($184) per hectare by 2020 according to the Commission's proposal -- equivalent to 54 percent of the EU average direct payment level.
The Baltic state of two million is demanding a minimum level of direct payments at 80 percent of the EU average as of 2014.
Ansis Bogustovs, a television journalist who came up with the idea of the legume protest, said: "We came to the European Union with the idea of equal treatment, but even after a decade it's not the case."
Armed guards on duty at the cabinet office have been instructed to keep a close eye on the vegetables in case passers-by attempt to liberate them for the purpose of making a salad, Bogustovs said.
He also threatened that Latvian farmers may raise the stakes even further next month by performing their traditional midsummer naked run through the streets of Brussels.
"I'm sure that two days before the European summit, this would create quite a stir," Bogustovs said.
Having broken from the crumbling Soviet Union in 1991, the tiny Baltic republic went on to join the European Union and NATO in 2004.
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