Outrage after angry farmers attempt to storm ferry with German Vice Chancellor aboard

Rachel Loxton
Rachel Loxton - [email protected]
Outrage after angry farmers attempt to storm ferry with German Vice Chancellor aboard
German Minister for Economic Affairs and Climate Action Robert Habeck. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Fabian Sommer

German Economics Minister and Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck became stranded on holiday after angry farmers attempted to storm a ferry in protest of government cuts.


Around 150 protesters blocked a jetty on the German North Sea coast and some attempted to storm the ferry that Habeck was on, leaving him unable to get off. 

Habeck, of the Green party, was returning from a holiday on Thursday with his wife on the island of Hooge, in Nordfriesland, Schleswig-Holstein.

Police said the Vice-Chancellor had to return to the island, and could only reach the mainland on another ferry crossing during the night.

It came despite the government announcing on Thursday that it would roll back part of its plans to cut agricultural subsidies following a huge farmers' protest involving hundreds of tractors in Berlin in December.

The protest has resulted in outrage in Germany across the political spectrum.

READ ALSO: Disruption as farmers on 1,500 tractors protest in Berlin

What exactly happened during the ferry protest?

According to reports, farmers in northern Germany organised a spontaneous demo on Thursday via social media and word of mouth. Within a few hours, they had travelled with tractors to the Schlüttsiel ferry port, where the ship carrying the minister was expected.

Habeck was unable to go ashore "for security reasons", an Economics Ministry spokesperson told German daily Welt.

There was a "very heated atmosphere", authorities said. Around 150 demonstrators had gathered and 30 police officers were deployed. 

Habeck was keen to chat to a small group of farmers although his bodyguards were wary of this, police said. 


He decided to allow three of the demonstrators on board for a discussion - but the farmers did not accept this offer. Instead, according to reports, they demanded that Habeck speak to everyone with a megaphone. But this was forbidden by his security staff.

Police said the other ferry passengers were eventually let ashore while Habeck and his wife remained on board. Between 25 and 30 farmers then tried to prevent the ferry from setting sail. Police used pepper spray and "light physical force" against the demonstrators. No injuries were reported.

The Ministry of Economics confirmed that demonstrators also attempted to board the ferry. And, when the ship set sail, "according to the information we have, fireworks were set off", the spokesperson said. Videos posted on social media show a group of people apparently being prevented by police from gaining access to the ferry.

Habeck returned to Hallig Hooge with his wife before taking a later ferry crossing, arriving home at around 2.30am.

"I regret that it was not possible to establish talks with the farmers," Habeck said in a statement on Friday

"What worries me... is that the mood in the country is becoming so inflamed," he said.

Other politicians from the government and opposition parties slammed the protest.

The incident was "shameful and goes against the rules of democratic coexistence", Chancellor Olaf Scholz's spokesman Steffen Hebestreit said on X, formerly Twitter.

Britta Haßelmann, leader of the Greens in the Bundestag, said it was an "attack on Robert Habeck's privacy".

Justice Minister Marco Buschmann said the incident discredits the many farmers who are demonstrating peacefully.

"Violence against people or property has no place in political debate," he said.

Meanwhile, the head of the German Farmers' Association (DBV) Joachim Rukwied also condemned the incident. 

"Blockades of this kind are a no-go," he said. 


Earlier on Thursday, the government announced that it will drop part of its plans to cut agricultural subsidies.

Contrary to the initial proposals, a discount on the vehicle tax for agricultural machinery would be maintained, Chancellor Scholz's spokesman Hebestreit said in a statement.

Tax breaks on fuel used by the same vehicles would not be scrapped completely but reduced progressively, Hebestreit said.

The move was agreed in light of new information on the state of the government's finances and "in order to avoid the sometimes considerable bureaucratic effort for the companies affected", he said.


An end to the subsidies was initially announced in December after a shock court ruling upended the government's spending plans.

But farmers do not believe this goes far enough - and more action is being planned in the coming weeks.

The partial reinstatement of the tax breaks was "insufficient", said Joachim Rukwied, the head of the German Farmers' Association, following the government announcement.

"Our position remains unchanged: both proposed cuts must be abandoned," Rukwied said.

With reporting from AFP


Join the conversation in our comments section below. Share your own views and experience and if you have a question or suggestion for our journalists then email us at [email protected].
Please keep comments civil, constructive and on topic – and make sure to read our terms of use before getting involved.

Please log in to leave a comment.

Me 2024/01/25 01:09
It seems odd to describe not taxing fuel as a subsidy. Surely it is a conscious decision to impose a tax. A subsidy implies money is given back rather than not taken in the first place.

See Also