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Thousands of people gathered on Wednesday in the Belgian capital Brussels for “a national day of action” to protest against skyrocketing electricity, natural gas and food prices and draw attention to the sharp hike in the cost of living.
Trade unions and city police said that around 10,000 took part. People from across the country gathered, marching behind banners reading “Life is much too expensive, we want solutions now,” and “Everything is going up except our wages,” or carrying placards marked “Freeze prices, not people.” City traffic and public transportation was disrupted.
A Belgian media poll this week showed that 64% of people questioned are concerned that they might not be able to afford their electricity and gas bills, which have more than doubled over the last year, while 80% of respondents said they are already trying to make energy and water savings.
“When we go grocery shopping, what’s in the cart costs now 20, 30 dollars more, or even more depending on the shop you go to. We are reaching a point where our wallets can’t keep up,” said Pascal Kraeso, a protester from Brussels.
Last month, Prime Minister Alexander de Croo warned that “the next five to 10 winters will be difficult” because of high electricity and natural gas prices fueled by Russia’s war in Ukraine.
The European Union’s 27 member countries have agreed to cut gas usage by 15% on average this winter, and aim in particular to reduce demand during peak hours. EU energy ministers are meeting next week to discuss the crisis.