German farmers are still protesting

Henry

More than 5,000 angry farmers once again descended on Berlin’s streets with honking tractors on Monday and loudly booed a government minister about the German government’s plans to cut agricultural subsidies.

RNews earlier reported that thousands of farmers have been protesting since last month over the planned cut in agricultural subsidies, a move that has already given rise to several paralyzing strikes nationwide and plunged the country deeper into unrest.

The finance minister, Christian Lindner, put up a strong defense of the government’s proposals at the protest and insisted that it was about “how we can get out of a difficult situation together”.

But he was booed when he entered the podium, with protesters calling him a “liar” and calling for the government to resign.

“The government must resign. They are no longer able to lead us,” Paul Brzezinski (73), a dairy farmer southeast of Berlin, told AFP.

According to the German Farmers’ Association (DPV), approximately 100,000 tractors took to the streets during the course of the protests.

The protests prompted the government to partially back down on cuts, pledging to restore a discount on vehicle tax and to phase out a diesel subsidy over several years instead of immediately.

But farmers say it is not enough and have appealed to the Berlin government to completely reverse the plans.

“It’s not just about the most recent cuts. It was simply the straw that broke the camel’s back,” said Hendrik Pferdmenges (45), a seed farmer from Hanover.

“We have lost too many subsidies in recent years, and there is so much regulation and bureaucracy that at some point we will not be able to make ends meet,” he said.

“If I had to describe why I am here in one word, it would be ‘future’,” said Henrike Boerstling (26), a seed farmer from Lower Saxony.

“I want my children to be able to become farmers one day. I want to be able to take over the farm from my father. I want to be able to manage it properly and invest in my business,” she said.

Some protesters were arrested on Monday for setting off fireworks, police said.

After meeting with representatives of the farmers, senior party figures from the coalition government proposed a new package of measures to help the sector in the future.

Joachim Rukwied, the SPCA leader, nevertheless said farmers will continue to fight for the diesel subsidy “as a matter of priority… And then we can talk about other topics”.

The farmers’ protests come at a time when approval ratings for Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s uneasy three-way coalition are at an all-time low.

In a recent poll for the daily newspaper Bild 64% of the Germans said that they would like to see a change of government.

Workers from various sectors, from metallurgy and transport to education, have staged protests in recent weeks amid struggling economic growth and rising prices.

Official data showed on Monday that the German economy shrank by 0.3 percent in 2023 as expensive energy, high interest rates and cooling foreign demand took their toll.

The farmers’ rallies have also attracted far-right protesters, raising fears that extremists are trying to exploit the protest movement.

The German Handball Federation apologized on Monday after Scholz was booed during Germany’s European Championship match against North Macedonia.