The German capital, Berlin, was brought to a standstill by a major demonstration organized by farmers to protest against government policy that many believe will destroy their livelihoods. Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s coalition government recently announced the end of tax breaks on agricultural diesel because officials say there are insufficient funds to continue it.
Finance Minister Christian Lindner addressed the protestors and told them that the money is needed for infrastructure improvements across the country, and to boos from the assembled crowd, he said Germany must also continue providing funds for the Ukrainian-Russian war in the interests of national security. “With the war in Ukraine, peace and freedom in Europe are threatened once again, so we have to invest once again in our security as we used to,” he said.
The “far-right” Alternative fur Deutschland (AfD) has surged amid the crisis, and support has reached a new high at 24%. As placards at the protest revealed, many Germans believe they are being abandoned in favor of other countries and immigrants. One protestor held a sign saying, “Billions for the world but no money for their people” – a sentiment expressed by people all over Europe.
The AfD has vocally supported the farmers and called for an end to open borders. According to a recent YouGov poll, as its fortunes rise, support for mainstream parties has fallen significantly.
The situation in Germany is similar to that of the Netherlands, where farmers are also angry at emission-reduction policies. Last year, the Dutch government said it would reduce the use of nitrogen in farming to tackle climate change, but farmers said it would cause around half of Dutch farms to cease functioning and lead to a food-production crisis. The Netherlands is the world’s second-largest exporter of agricultural product, bringing more than $125 billion into its economy every year.
In 2023, a new political party dedicated to opposing the nitrogen policy in the Netherlands made huge gains at local elections.