Tractors Converge on Berlin for Farmers’ Protest

REUTERS/Liesa Johannssen
German farmers line up their tractors at the Strasse des 17. Juni in front of the Brandenburg Gate to prepare one day before a large protest against the cut of farm vehicle tax subsidies of the so-called German Ampel coalition government, in Berlin, Germany, January 14, 2024.

BERLIN (Reuters) – Farmers and their tractors rumbled towards Berlin from every corner of Germany on Sunday ahead of a giant protest demanding a rethink of plans to tax farmers more.

Some 3,000 tractors, 2,000 trucks and 10,000 people were expected to fill the streets around Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate on Monday for a rally that will cap a week of protests against the government.

The protests have heaped pressure on Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s coalition as it struggles to fix a budget mess and contain right-wing forces.

Caught on the back foot, it has already agreed not to scrap a tax rebate on new agricultural vehicles and to spread over years the scrapping of an agricultural diesel subsidy.

But farmers, with the vocal backing of the opposition conservatives and the far-right, say this does not go far enough.

“Farmers will die out,” said farmer Karl-Wilhelm Kempner on Sunday as he boarded a bus in Cologne heading for the demonstration. “The population must understand that far more food will be imported” if subsidies are not restored.

The government is showing a conciliatory face amid concerns that political debate in the country is becoming radicalized and that demonstrations could turn violent.

Finance Minister Christian Lindner will address the protest and coalition party leaders have invited leaders of the demonstrations for talks.

Disruption caused by protests and train strikes last week hurt coalition parties in the polls and propelled the far-right Alternative for Germany party to new heights.

In a video podcast on Saturday, Scholz said the government had listened to farmers’ demands and compromised.

“We’ve taken the farmers’ arguments to heart and revised our proposals. A good compromise,” he said.