Farmers sow chaos across Germany
German farmers angry about fuel subsidy cuts have launched a weeklong nationwide protest, putting Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s fragile center-left coalition in a bind.
Scholz’s decision to end some tax breaks and subsidies for farmers was framed as tough medicine needed to cure the government’s budgetary ailments. It came after Germany’s top court ruled last fall that the government could not, in fact, direct €60 billion in leftover pandemic funds toward climate policy initiatives.
But that immediately provoked farmers, several hundred of whom stormed a ferry carrying Scholz’s top economic deputy last week. Even a partial climbdown by the government failed to appease them, and now they’ve launched protests across the country, blocking roads and snarling commuter traffic.
Farmers say raising their production costs not only hits their pocketbooks but is also unwise at a moment when inflation is ticking up and there are fears of a broader economic recession in Europe’s largest economy. The government says it must balance its budget, in time-honored German tradition. With Scholz’s coalition polling at a truly dismal 17%, is there a good German word for wiggle room?
Meanwhile, a new (old) left model rises. A new German party combines progressive ideas on the social safety net with a harsh line on immigration and skepticism about climate policy.
The Sahra Wagenknecht Alliance, founded by a half-Iranian defector from Germany’s The Left party, says today’s leftists have traded their old interest in class issues for a new one in cultural wars, and she thinks she – along with co-founder Amira Mohamed Ali, who is half Egyptian – can blunt the rise of the surging far-right Alternative for Germany party. She has sided clearly with the framers, blasting the government for “taking money from their pockets.”.
The Alliance will face its first test in this summer’s European Parliament elections, in which right and center-right parties are expected to perform well against a backdrop of rising European misgivings about migration.