German farmers block roads nationwide (VIDEOS)
Farmers all over Germany are rallying for a week of protests against government austerity measures, which they fear may leave the agricultural sector without support and force farms to shut down.
Thousands have flocked to Berlin and other major cities to protest the cuts to diesel subsidies and tax breaks for agricultural vehicles introduced by Chancellor Olaf Scholz last month as part of a broader package intended to plug a multibillion-euro budget deficit. Among other things, farmers plan to stage blockades on motorways and travel in slow-moving convoys.
The farmers had already staged a mass protest in Berlin following the announcement in mid-December, forcing the government to partially roll back the planned measures. For instance, Berlin agreed not to abolish the preferential tax treatment of agricultural vehicles, and postpone diesel tax break cuts until 2026. However, protesters say the government’s concessions were not enough, and are calling for an ‘Action Week’ of daily protests nationwide from January 8 to demand a full reversal of the proposed cuts.
“This can only be a first step,” Joachim Rukwied, head of the farmers association DBV, said regarding the partial cancellation of the cuts, pledging that farmers would protest the government’s plans “as the country has never seen before.”
“We demand the complete reversal of these tax increases without any ifs and buts… I expect that tens of thousands of tractors will come to our rallies all over Germany,” Rukwied told Bild news outlet.
The week-long rally is expected to end with a major demonstration in the German capital on January 15.
Many fear the protests could paralyze transportation across the country and pose a threat to public safety.
“Not every form of protest helps the cause. This applies to striking actions as well as to tractor blockades. Anyone who oversteps must face consequences,” Herbert Reul, Interior Minister of North Rhine-Westphalia, told the Rheinische Post, warning the demonstrators not put their own interests above public order. His comments came after a group of some 100 farmers blocked German Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck from disembarking from a ferry last week.
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