German farmers blockade green minister’s ferry as he returns from vacation, nationwide farmer protests loom on Jan. 8

Farmers have parked their tractors on a road close to the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, Germany, Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2019. Some thousands farmers are expected in the German capital for a protest rally against the German and European agriculture policy. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)
By John Cody
4 Min Read

German farmers in Schlüttsiel successfully blockaded German Economic Minister Robert Habeck’s (Greens) ferry last night as he was returning from vacation, with the move making headline news across the country.

Politicians from the Greens have reacted with fury to farmers in Schleswig-Holstein preventing Habeck (Greens) from leaving the ferry, with Agriculture Minister Özdemir describing them as “radicals” and “fanatics” who dream of overthrowing the government.

Habeck, along with the rest of the federal government, is pushing forward radical proposals to cut subsidies for farmers and increase taxes, which have prompted protests around the nation.

Habeck was forced to return to the island of Hallig Hooge, where he was vacationing. However, he has since returned home with the help of police.

“With all understanding for a lively protest culture, no one should care about such a brutalization of political mores,” wrote government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit early Friday morning on the X platform.

These are “people who don’t care about German agriculture,” said Özdemir on Friday on ARD. “They have wet dreams of overthrows, and that won’t happen. To be very clear: This is not acceptable.”

Climate activists from Last Generation have been shutting down roads, attacking art, and causing mass disruptions across Germany. However, some from the left have been openly supportive of the group.

The German government currently has abysmal approval ratings, with two in three Germans demanding snap elections.

Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock (Greens) wrote on X that the incident was an “attack on Robert Habeck’s privacy.” She called on the German Farmers’ Association (BvD) to distance themselves from the incident. 

It is clear that no violence was committed against Habeck. Nevertheless, his personal vacation was disrupted by the incident, raising questions about how far the protesters could go to express their disapproval of government policy.

However, few in the government have condemned actual physical attacks against Alternative for Germany (AfD) politicians, who have been not only subject to physical assaults, but have also suffered from vehicle arson at their actual homes.

Farmer protests planned

The government has already acceded to some demands from the farmers. On Thursday, the federal government responded to the massive farmers’ protests over the planned reduction of subsidies: The coalition wants to forego the abolition of the vehicle tax exemption for agriculture. They also say the abolition of tax relief for agricultural diesel should be extended and implemented in several steps. However, the German Farmers’ Association considers the measures to be inadequate — and is sticking to a week of action planned starting on Monday.

German farmers have organized another rally of staggering proportions in Berlin, with thousands of disgruntled people on tractors on a main road in the German capital. The organizers of the demonstration say that if the government does not withdraw its plan to cut the fuel subsidies for agricultural vehicles and the idea of a tax on agricultural vehicles, they will partake in nationwide protests on Jan. 8.

The farmers’ protests began last December across the country after the German government announced austerity measures in the wake of budgetary difficulties, a blow against German farmers already hard hit by ill-considered green policies. The president of the German Farmers’ Association said that “the government has declared war on those who make their living from agriculture.”

He promised that if the situation did not change, after January 8 the country would experience something it had “never experienced before.”

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