Columns of tractors rolled into Berlin on Monday as farmers gathered for the climax of a week of demonstrations against a plan to scrap tax breaks on the diesel they use, a protest that has tapped into wider discontent with Germany’s government.
Police said late Sunday evening that the space set aside for vehicles in front of the Brandenburg Gate, where Monday’s demonstration was being held, was already full. Over the past week, farmers have blocked highway entrances and slowed down traffic across Germany with their protests, intent on pushing Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s government to abandon the planned cuts entirely.
They’re not satisfied with concessions the government has already made. On Jan. 4, it watered down its original plan, saying that a car tax exemption for farming vehicles would be retained and the cuts in the 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” and insisted the government came up with “a good compromise.” He also said officials will discuss “what else we can do so that agriculture has a good future.”
Leaders of the three governing parties’ parliamentary groups plan to meet with farmers’ representatives, though officials have dampened hopes of scrapping the subsidy cuts.
The plan to cut the tax breaks resulted from the need to fill a large hole in the 2024 budget. The farmers’ protests come at a time of deep general discontent with the center-left Scholz’s government, which has become notorious for frequent public squabbles and lengthy wrangling over sometimes poorly communicated decisions.
Scholz acknowledged concerns that go well beyond farming subsidies, saying that crises, conflicts and worries about the future are unsettling people.