Traffic chaos hits German cities as farmers stage tractor protest
Protests by farmers are set to bring traffic to a standstill in some German cities.
Thousands of farmers from all over Germany are expected in Berlin on Friday and Saturday. There are also a series of protests in other German cities on Friday, including Hanover, Bremen and Wesel (North Rhine-Westphalia) as well as Nuremberg where around 10,000 farmers and 5,000 tractors are expected.
The demos coincide with 'Green Week', held annually in Berlin for processors and marketers in agriculture, horticulture and various food industries.
There have also been farmer protests in other parts of Germany this week, including Thuringia, as the video below shows.
#Bauerndemo von @LandschafftVerbTH & @BauernverbandTH vor dem @ThuerLandtag mit 350 Traktoren ist ein Weckruf für die Politik in #Thüringen. Beachtet die Interessen der heimischen #Landwirte! Ohne #Landwirtschaft stirbt der #LändlicheRaum. #Dialog & #Respekt! AH pic.twitter.com/abc6GLcm2d— Thüringer Bauernverband (@BauernverbandTH) January 15, 2020
Traffic disruption expected
In Berlin the protests are being held by two separate groups.
On Friday, the alliance "Land schafft Verbindung" (Countryside Creates Connection) will demonstrate from 11am and 7pm.
The group, which is protesting against planned government regulations aimed at protecting the environment which it says are damaging to farmers, are set to ride in from the surrounding state of Brandenburg to the Victory Column, bringing traffic to a standstill.
Police said about 500 tractors are expected for the rally. There's likely to be extensive traffic problems in roads in Brandenburg and Berlin as early as 8am, which will likely cause misery for commuters.
On Saturday, the alliance "Wir haben es satt" (We've had enough) is holding a demo alongside climate and animal welfare activists to call for a more environmentally friendly agricultural policy.
The alliance, which brings together around 100 organizations including farmers, is calling for a new distribution of EU agricultural subsidies.
Instead of investing €60 billion from the EU in agriculture which uses pesticides on fields or encourages mass livestock farming possible, the money should be spent to support environmental, nature conservation and climate measures as well as promoting animal welfare.
Up to 15,000 people are expected at this protest.
The Straße des 17. Juni in Berlin will be closed in both directions between Ernst-Reuter-Platz and Großer Stern (Victory Column).
Police have recommended that drivers leave their cars at home during the protests and switch to public transport, in particular the U-Bahn and the S-Bahn.
In Nuremberg the motto of the protest is ""Wir ackern für Bayern" (we are working for Bavaria) and will cause huge disruption, police warned.
The tractor convoys will drive into the city towards the assembly point at the Nuremberg public festival square on six different routes.
Police have urged drivers to avoid the area.
It comes after a mass protest by the Land schafft Verbindung in November, which saw 10,000 people and about 5,000 tractors converge from all over Germany in Berlin.
Farmers from this movement are angry about new planned regulations which Agriculture Minister Julia Klöckner, of the CDU, and Environment Minister Svenja Schulze, of the SPD, presented at the beginning of September last year.
Among other things, the government package stipulates that the weedkiller glyphosate will be banned in Germany by the end of 2023 after a phasing-out period.
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The government is also proposing to reduce the nitrate content in ground water by cutting the use of certain fertilizers and liquid manure.
But many German farmers say they are still coping with large amounts of excess nitrate from the past.
There are fears that the agricultural package will endanger family-run farms, according to the Land schafft Verbindung.