Disruption as farmers on 1,500 tractors protest in Berlin

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Disruption as farmers on 1,500 tractors protest in Berlin
Farmers at a demonstration called by the German Farmers' Association in Berlin, with the sign: 'Do you have to starve before you understand?' Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Fabian Sommer

Farmers from all over Germany descended on Berlin aboard more than 1,500 tractors on Monday in a protest against the government's planned budget cuts.


Thousands of farmers were expected in the demonstration that involves hundreds of tractors driving to the landmark Brandenburg Gate for a rally around 11am.

The convoy caused disruption on the roads as tractors drove towards the centre of Berlin. 

Police said 6,600 people had joined the demonstration, while the German Farmers' Association (DBV) put the number at between 8,000 and 10,000.

Police said traffic restrictions were expected all day Monday due to "several hundred tractors" in the city.  Police later said there were 1,500 tractors. 

A convoy with around 150 tractors came from the north of Germany early on Monday morning, a spokesman for the Farmers' Association told Berlin broadcaster rbb. The farmers gathered there and then continued on the B5 to Berlin.

The protest is being held against the government's plan to remove tax privileges and subsidies in the agriculture industry. 

The coalition, made up of the Social Democrats (SPD), Free Democrats (FDP) and the Greens, is planning to abolish tax breaks for farmers and get rid of the agricultural diesel subsidy as part of budget cuts following the top court ruling in November that upended spending plans. 

READ ALSO: How Germany plans to solve its budget crisis in 2024

The government has also said the measures should help protect the climate. 

Joachim Rukwied, president of the DBV, said the cuts would cost farmers more than one billion euros ($1.1 billion) per year.

"This is a declaration of war and we are taking up the fight," he said.

However, Food and Agriculture Minister Cem Özdemir spoke at the protest, appearing to backtrack. 

“I know that you came to Berlin with a huge amount of anger,” said the Green politician. He added that cuts needed to be made following the court ruling - but not disproportionately in agriculture.

"I don't believe in cuts on this scale," said Özdemir. "That's why I'm fighting in the cabinet to ensure that it doesn't happen to this extent."

The pro-business FDP parliamentary group in the Bundestag said on Sunday that it would veto the plans to abolish tax breaks, signalling more cracks in the coalition.

“The FDP parliamentary group does not consider the heavy burden on agricultural businesses to be acceptable,” FDP parliamentary group leader Christian Dürr told DPA. 


“Too often people talk about supposedly climate-damaging subsidies without looking at the social and economic consequences of abolishing them," he added.

“Above all, our farmers need fair competitive conditions compared to other European countries,” Dürr said. “That is exactly what would be at risk if the plans were implemented.”

Finance Minister Christian Lindner had "therefore already confirmed that he can present alternatives to the government if the coalition partners agree".

Germany's highest court decided last month that the government had broken a constitutional debt rule when it transferred 60 billion euros earmarked for pandemic support to a climate fund.


The bombshell ruling blew a huge hole in spending plans and plunged Chancellor Olaf Scholz's three-way coalition into turmoil.

After adopting an emergency budget for 2023, Scholz and his junior coalition partners battled for weeks before finally finding an agreement for 2024 last week.

READ ALSO: Flights to shampoo: How life will get more expensive in Germany in 2024

With reporting from AFP


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