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19 Dec, 2023 13:11

Farmers block Berlin streets (VIDEO)

Protesters fear the German government’s austerity measures will force farms to shut down
Farmers block Berlin streets (VIDEO)

Farmers from across Germany descended on Berlin in tractors on Monday, protesting against the government’s plans to slash diesel subsidies and tax breaks for agricultural vehicles. Berlin recently announced austerity measures for 2024 to combat a multibillion-euro budget deficit.

Angry farmers blocked off a street near the iconic Brandenburg Gate, carrying placards reading “Your politics are a declaration of war against farmers” and “Enough is enough!” The protesters fear that the planned budget cuts will leave Germany’s agricultural sector nearly €1 billion ($1.1 billion) worse off next year.  According to Berlin’s police department, around 1,700 tractors and 6,600 farmers took part in the protest.

The German Farmers Association (DBV) and the Land Creates Connection (LsV) lobby threatened to expand the demonstrations if the austerity measures are implemented. DBV President Joachim Rukwied warned at the rally that “from January 8 we will be present everywhere in a way that the country has never experienced before. We will not accept this.”

Speaking to the state ARD broadcaster at the protest, German Agriculture Minister Cem Ozdemir said that farmers have “no alternative” to diesel.

“I’m not shutting myself off from us having to save, but it must be done in a way that we take people along with us — and farmers are the ones who supply us with food,” Ozdemir said. “These cuts ... overburden the sector.”

Berlin has been forced to plug a hole in its budget after a constitutional court ruling in November declared the attempted repurposing of €60 billion ($65.7 billion) in unused Covid-19 funding as unconstitutional. 

The cabinet of Chancellor Olaf Scholz was faced with the choice of either suspending what is known as the debt-brake (which limits the government deficit to 0.35% of GDP) or finding around €17 billion ($18.6 billion) in savings and tax cuts.

Secretary of State Steffen Hebestreit said on Monday that decisions on the 2024 budget had already been finalized and would not be reopened, although details of their implementation were still being looked at.