German farmers began a week of protest against the government on Monday to push back against subsidy cuts that they say unfairly targets their livelihoods, according to The Associated Press.

Large convoys of trucks and tractors lined streets all over the country on Monday morning, including in the street leading to Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate, as farmers are standing up to the liberal-green coalition government for its moves to phase out tax breaks for agricultural vehicles and diesel fuel, according to the AP. Farmers are enraged that the government is looking to eliminate the subsidies, a decision which they say would threaten their ability to remain in business.

The German government opted to eliminate the subsidies to help plug a 17 billion euro gap in the 2024 budget, according to the AP. Officials have since offered to amend their proposal to gradually phase the subsidies out by 2026, but the farmers are still strongly opposed to the decision.

The Alternative for Germany (AfD), a conservative populist opposition party that has seen a surge in popularity as Germany’s economy has struggled, is supporting the protests, according to the AP. Meanwhile, the government is warning that the farmers’ protest movement may be co-opted and infiltrated by far-right wing elements.

The liberal-green governing coalition, led by Prime Minister Olaf Scholz, has seen its support fall precipitously since 2021, with a majority of polled Germans stating in December 2023 that they want a change in leadership and early elections, according to Bloomberg News.

Germany has spent vast sums of money to facilitate a green energy transition, but the country is still on track to miss its climate targets. Officials also moved to shut down the country’s remaining nuclear plants in April 2023 amid concerns about the long-term adequacy of energy supply, while its gross domestic product is thought to have shrunk in 2023 and expected to show weak growth in 2024, according to International Politics and Society.

Environment and Energy Minister Robert Habeck warned in June that Germany may have no choice but to deliberately diminish its industrial capacity if its current natural gas deal with Russia expires in 2024 without a replacement in place.

The German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action did not respond immediately to requests for comment.

Nick Pope on January 8, 2024

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