Farmers gather in German capital to join a giant rally demanding a rethink of the government’s plans to tax them more.
Thousands of German farmers, truck drivers and agricultural workers have gathered with tractors and other heavy equipment in front of Berlin’s iconic Brandenburg Gate for another demonstration by farmers angry at the government’s plans to end tax breaks on diesel.
Police on Monday estimated that at least 3,000 tractors had already arrived for the protest and an estimated 2,000 more were on the way in a climax to their weeklong protests.
The tractors blocked traffic in parts of the city and Berlin’s public transit agency reported major service delays. About 10,000 people had registered for the demonstrations against Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s plans to cut subsidies, but Berlin police expect even more to attend.
A total of 1,300 police officers have been deployed to accompany the farmer protests, Berlin police chief Barbara Slowik told city leaders on Monday.
In addition to representatives of the farmers’ association and trade unions, Finance Minister Christian Lindner is also expected to address the protesters.
On Sunday evening, police were stopping tractors from entering the demonstration area in the capital’s governmental district. “It can’t take any more,” said a police spokesperson.
Over the past week, farmers have blocked highway entrances and slowed down traffic across Germany, dissatisfied with concessions the government has already made.
Berlin announced plans to cut subsidies and tax breaks on diesel and agricultural vehicles after a court ruling tore a multibillion-euro hole in the government’s budget, forcing Scholz’s coalition to find savings.
The government, which has already partially walked back on the plans, defended the reductions by pointing to increases in farmers’ income in recent years.
In the financial year 2022-23, farms made a record profit of 115,400 euros ($126,000) on average, a 45 percent increase on the year before, according to industry figures.
On January 4, the government said tax exemption for farming vehicles would be retained and cuts in diesel tax breaks would be staggered over three years.
Scholz said in a video message on Saturday that “we took the farmers’ arguments to heart”, adding that he believes the government came up with “a good compromise”.
But the farmers, with the vocal backing of the opposition conservatives and far-right parties, say the government’s concessions do not go far enough.
“Farmers will die out,” said farmer Karl-Wilhelm Kempner on Sunday as he boarded a bus in Cologne to head to the demonstration.
“The population must understand that far more food will be imported” if subsidies are not restored.