09 Jan 2024, 13:31
Benjamin Wehrmann

German government will stick to planned diesel fuel subsidy cuts for farmers – Scholz

Clean Energy Wire / Süddeutsche Zeitung / Tagesspiegel / Rheinische Post

The German government will continue with its plans to rollback tax breaks for agricultural businesses, said chancellor Olaf Scholz at a press conference on Monday. “The government stands by its word,” said Scholz. He argued that the measure had been carefully considered by his administration and that it was time to address subsidies that have been controversial for years. While it was widely agreed that state support needs to be reduced to put Germany’s budget on a solid footing, interest groups regularly said “but not this one,” Scholz added. The chancellor stressed that he is not rejecting the farming industry’s protests against the planned measures, pointing out that criticism is a necessary part of the democratic procedure. “No one can argue about that.” However, he emphasised that parliament would have the final say on whether to cut subsidies for diesel fuel and farming vehicles. Thousands of farmers across Germany took to the streets on Monday to demonstrate against the measures, arguing that they would put a disproportionate burden on the sector.

Senior members of Scholz’s Social Democrats (SPD) have urged the chancellor to review the decision, which had already been partially overturned or delayed in the past week due to pressure from the agricultural industry. Four heads of state from Scholz’s SPD have said they back the farming industry’s demands – Stephan Weil in Lower Saxony, Manuela Schwesig in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Dietmar Woidke in Brandenburg and Anke Reglinger from Saarland. “The farmers are furious – and for a good reason,” said Schwesig. “You cannot cut two basic funding measures overnight without talking to each other. That is why they have to be taken back.” Schwesig’s comments were echoed by Woidke and Rehlinger, putting pressure on the chancellor to guarantee unity on the issue within his own party.

Protests against the measures were supported by other business groups, such as haulier companies, to oppose austerity measures targeting fossil fuel vehicles. Traffic was blocked across all of Germany’s 16 states, and while the authorised demonstrations remained largely peaceful, there were concerns that far-right groups could hijack the cause to incite civil disobedience to target government representatives. Süddeutsche Zeitung reported that far-right groups in Dresden joined the farmers’ protests and tried to breach a police barrier.

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