German farmers gain some ground but will not stop protesting until the government capitulates

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German farmers gain some ground but will not stop protesting until the government capitulates  germany

The German government on Thursday dropped part of its plans to cut agricultural subsidies in the face of massive protests from farmers that began last month.

After farmers in their thousands brought Berlin to a standstill, the German government announced on Thursday it would progressively reduce diesel tax breaks, rather than stop them altogether this month as initially proposed.

In a statement published on Thursday, Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s spokesman Steffen Hebestreit also said the initial proposal to cut tax exemptions on agricultural machinery would no longer be implemented and instead the exemptions would remain in place.

The farmers are not accepting a partial concession.  Hours after the government partially climbed down, a group of farmers prevented Germany’s vice chancellor, Robert Habeck, from disembarking a ferry.  The group of roughly 250 to 300 farmers blocked a jetty in Schluettsiel on the North Sea coast on Thursday evening, forcing Habeck to return to the small island of Hooge.

“The situation on site was heated, meaning that a dialogue between Mr. Habeck and the protest leaders could not be enabled, and because of that the ferry departed again,” police said. “From within the ranks of the protest, around 25-30 people tried to get on board the ferry, but they were held back by the officials on the scene, in part with the use of pepper spray.”

According to police in Flensburg, Habeck made it back in the middle of the night “without further incident.” He was caught on camera disembarking from the ferry at 1:50 am.

Habeck, the Green party’s Economy Minister, is labelled by Politico as Germany’s “top Green.”  He is relevant to removing subsidies and exemptions from farmers for two reasons, DW reported. He was one of the three party leaders, along with Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Finance Minister Christian Lindner, to negotiate a way out of the budget impasse; and his portfolio also includes considerable if shared responsibility for energy and climate policies.

German authorities are desperately trying to save the Government’s plans by deflecting blame and searching for “right-wing radicals” that have infiltrated the farmers’ protests.

“Before the farmers’ week of action, the security authorities are monitoring calls for mobilisation, including from right-wing radicals. The Alternative for Germany party (“AfD”) wants to put the issue at the ‘centre of the election campaigns’, Politicians from the democratic parties are showing solidarity with Robert Habeck after his return from vacation was hindered,” Welt reported.

Germany’s coalition government came into power in December 2021. The agreement for the period 2021 to 2025 between the Social Democratic Party of Germany (“SPD”), the Free Democratic Party (“FDP”), and Alliance 90/Die Grünen (“the Greens”) is referred to as the “traffic light” coalition, named after the parties’ traditional colours, respectively red, yellow, and green, matching the colour sequence of a traffic light. 

It isn’t only in Berlin where farmers have been protesting.  Protests are erupting in towns across Germany against the “traffic light” government’s policies.

On Thursday, vlogger Ignaz Bearth posted the video below on his Telegram channel with the caption: “4 January 2024 Günzburg, Bavaria – Farmers protest against the traffic light regime!”

On Friday, referring to the coalition government, Bearth posted a video with the caption: “Farmers in Garmisch-Partenkirchen are also warming up. ‘Stop the traffic lights!’” Garmisch-Partenkirchen is an Alpine ski town in Bavaria, southern Germany.

He also shared a link to a map which shows the date, time and location of further planned farmers’ protests.

Featured image: Farmers blocked a main road into central Berlin and dumped manure on the street in December after plans to end fuel and registration tax cuts (left).  Source: Barron’s. Protesting farmers stop Germany’s vice chancellor leaving ferry (right). Source: Euronews