In view of the ongoing farmers' protests, the chairmen of the three traffic light factions in the Bundestag have invited the leaders of the agricultural associations to a meeting on Monday. The parliamentary group leaders Rolf Mützenich (SPD), Britta Haßelmann (Greens) and Christian Dürr (FDP) sent a corresponding letter to the associations on Wednesday afternoon.
“The current demonstrations make it clear that your profession is not only concerned about financial burdens, but also about a lack of planning security and economic prospects for agricultural businesses,” says the invitation, which is available to the German Press Agency. “It is important to us to remain in direct dialogue with agricultural representatives on these issues.”
With its plans to abolish tax breaks for agricultural diesel, the traffic light government has triggered a storm of protest from farmers, which could not be stopped even by concessions from the government. A week of action is currently underway, the highlight of which will be a large demonstration in Berlin next Monday.
The traffic light parliamentary group leaders have now invited a total of eight associations to talk on this day. In the invitation letter, the board members are asked to come to the meeting alone as a precaution: "In order to be able to set up a trusting exchange in an appropriate conversation atmosphere, we ask you to refrain from accompanying you to this appointment."
In an initial reaction, the rural agriculture working group (AbL) welcomed the traffic light initiative. Its chairman Martin Schulz called on the government and the parliamentary group leaders to “finally turn things around in agricultural policy”.
The farmers' association is still not satisfied with the government's easing of subsidy cuts. President Joachim Rukwied is counting on the upcoming parliamentary procedure, which begins next week. “Now it is up to the federal government and the parliamentary groups in the German Bundestag to end these protests,” he told the DPA. "A lazy compromise like the one currently on the table cannot be a solution - because it won't get a tractor off the road." The parliamentary groups must now discuss intensively “how the competitiveness of agriculture can be maintained and how the protests can be ended.”
On Thursday, the farmers' actions initially continued unabated. In Cottbus, Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) was directly affected. When he visited a new railway factory in the Brandenburg city, he was greeted with loud protests from demonstrating farmers. The police led a convoy of tractors past the plant. The railway station hall was cordoned off and the farmers couldn't get there with their tractors.
Scholz had already announced on Wednesday that he wanted to speak to Brandenburg's state farmers' president, Henrik Wendorff, on the sidelines of the factory opening. He then takes part in the closed meeting of the SPD parliamentary group in Berlin.
The federal government is no longer planning to abolish the tax break for agricultural diesel that has existed for more than 70 years in one fell swoop, but rather to phase it out gradually over three years. The coalition has already completely withdrawn a planned deletion of the vehicle tax exemption for farmers. The farmers' association has described the corrections made so far as insufficient. The Bundestag still has to approve the plans.
The SPD chairwoman Saskia Esken gave the farmers no hope on Thursday that the traffic light coalition would still move. “We have now agreed to phase out this subsidy for agricultural diesel step by step – we should stick with that,” said Esken in the RTL/ntv “Early Start”. It's about reducing climate-damaging subsidies. This applies under the impression of the budget, but it is also a general goal of the traffic light coalition.
Esken called on farmers to moderate their protests. These are okay within the framework of the right to demonstrate. “At the same time, you always have to ask yourself whether you can still achieve the sympathy of the population with your actions if you are so annoying that the schools and the companies can no longer be reached,” said the SPD leader. The protests could also pose a threat to the work of rescue or nursing services. "I think the farmers themselves ultimately come to the conclusion that we shouldn't overdo it."