Berlin, December 18, 2023
German farmers converged at the iconic Brandenburg Gate in Berlin to voice their opposition to the government’s plans to slash tax breaks for diesel used in agriculture. The protest, which took place on 18th December 2023, underscored the farmers’ concerns over the proposed measures aimed at filling a significant budgetary gap of 17 billion euros.
The backdrop of this protest is the recent decision by Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s three-party coalition to address the budget shortfall by scaling back climate-damaging subsidies and making modest cuts in various ministries’ expenditures. This move became imperative after the German high court nullified a previous decision to allocate 60 billion euros initially earmarked for COVID-19 fallout towards climate change initiatives and national modernization. The court ruling was a result of Germany’s stringent fiscal constraints, preventing excessive debt accumulation.
As details of the budget deal emerged, discontent grew, particularly concerning the plan to cut tax breaks for agricultural diesel and eliminate the exemption of car tax for farming vehicles. Agriculture Minister CemÖzdemir joined the chorus of dissent, emphasizing that farmers have “no alternative” to diesel and expressing concern that the proposed cuts would excessively burden the agricultural sector.
“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,” Özdemir stated in an interview with ARD television.
The protest saw a convoy of tractors rolling into the capital on Monday, converging at the historic Brandenburg Gate as a symbolic gesture of defiance. Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck, a member of the Green party to which Özdemir belongs, cautioned against dismantling the recent budget deal. He stressed that those seeking to reverse planned cuts must propose alternative financing solutions that are agreeable to all parties involved.
“As politicians, we are obliged to enable an overall solution,” Habeck conveyed to the German news agency dpa. “What politicians can’t do is shirk responsibility and only say where savings shouldn’t be made.”
Within the governing coalition, Habeck’s Economy Ministry faced internal criticism over another aspect of the budget deal — the abrupt termination of subsidies for purchasing new electric cars, originally intended to extend until the end of the following year. The ministry, on Saturday, announced an immediate halt to new subsidy applications after Sunday night, further fueling the discontent within the coalition.