Traffic chaos hits German cities as farmers stage tractor protest

Protests by farmers are set to bring traffic to a standstill in some German cities.

Traffic chaos hits German cities as farmers stage tractor protest
Farmers protesting in Berlin in November. Photo: DPA

Thousands of farmers from all over Germany are expected in Berlin on Friday and Saturday. There are also a series of protests in other German cities on Friday, including Hanover, Bremen and Wesel (North Rhine-Westphalia) as well as Nuremberg where around 10,000 farmers and 5,000 tractors are expected.

The demos coincide with 'Green Week', held annually in Berlin for processors and marketers in agriculture, horticulture and various food industries.

There have also been farmer protests in other parts of Germany this week, including Thuringia, as the video below shows.

Traffic disruption expected

In Berlin the protests are being held by two separate groups.

On Friday, the alliance “Land schafft Verbindung” (Countryside Creates Connection) will demonstrate from 11am and 7pm.

The group, which is protesting against planned government regulations aimed at protecting the environment which it says are damaging to farmers, are set to ride in from the surrounding state of Brandenburg to the Victory Column, bringing traffic to a standstill. 

Police said about 500 tractors are expected for the rally. There's likely to be extensive traffic problems in roads in Brandenburg and Berlin as early as 8am, which will likely cause misery for commuters.

On Saturday, the alliance “Wir haben es satt” (We've had enough) is holding a demo alongside climate and animal welfare activists to call for a more environmentally friendly agricultural policy.

The alliance, which brings together around 100 organizations including farmers, is calling for a new distribution of EU agricultural subsidies.

Instead of investing €60 billion from the EU in agriculture which uses pesticides on fields or encourages mass livestock farming possible, the money should be spent to support environmental, nature conservation and climate measures as well as promoting animal welfare.

Up to 15,000 people are expected at this protest. 

The Straße des 17. Juni in Berlin will be closed in both directions between Ernst-Reuter-Platz and Großer Stern (Victory Column).

Police have recommended that drivers leave their cars at home during the protests and switch to public transport, in particular the U-Bahn and the S-Bahn.

In Nuremberg the motto of the protest is “”Wir ackern für Bayern” (we are working for Bavaria) and will cause huge disruption, police warned.

The tractor convoys will drive into the city towards the assembly point at the Nuremberg public festival square on six different routes.

Police have urged drivers to avoid the area.

Massive protests

It comes after a mass protest by the Land schafft Verbindung in November, which saw 10,000 people and about 5,000 tractors converge from all over Germany in Berlin. 

Farmers from this movement are angry about new planned regulations which Agriculture Minister Julia Klöckner, of the CDU, and Environment Minister Svenja Schulze, of the SPD, presented at the beginning of September last year.

Among other things, the government package stipulates that the weedkiller glyphosate will be banned in Germany by the end of 2023 after a phasing-out period.


The government is also proposing to reduce the nitrate content in ground water by cutting the use of certain fertilizers and liquid manure.

But many German farmers say they are still coping with large amounts of excess nitrate from the past.

There are fears that the agricultural package will endanger family-run farms, according to the Land schafft Verbindung.

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WTO rules US tariffs on Spanish olives breach rules

A US decision to slap steep import duties on Spanish olives over claims they benefited from subsidies constituted a violation of international trade rules, the World Trade Organisation ruled Friday.

WTO rules US tariffs on Spanish olives breach rules
Farmers had just begun harvesting olives in southern Spain when former US President Donald Trump soured the mood with the tariffs' announcement. Photo: Jorge Guerrero/AFP

Former US president Donald Trump’s administration slapped extra tariffs on Spain’s iconic agricultural export in 2018, considering their olives were subsidised and being dumped on the US market at prices below their real value.

The combined rates of the anti-subsidy and anti-dumping duties go as high as 44 percent.

The European Commission, which handles trade policy for the 27 EU states, said the move was unacceptable and turned to the WTO, where a panel of experts was appointed to examine the case.

In Friday’s ruling, the WTO panel agreed with the EU’s argument that the anti-subsidy duties were illegal.

But it did not support its stance that the US anti-dumping duties violated international trade rules.

The panel said it “recommended that the United States bring its measures into conformity with its obligations”.

EU trade commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis hailed the ruling, pointing out that the US duties “severely hit Spanish olive producers.”

Demonstrators take part in a 2019 protest in Madrid, called by the olive sector
Demonstrators take part in a 2019 protest in Madrid called by the olive sector to denounce low prices of olive oil and the 25 percent tariff that Spanish olives and olive oil faced in the United States. (Photo by PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU / AFP)

“We now expect the US to take the appropriate steps to implement the WTO ruling, so that exports of ripe olives from Spain to the US can resume under normal conditions,” he said.

The European Commission charges that Spain’s exports of ripe olives to the United States, which previously raked in €67 million ($75.6 million) annually, have shrunk by nearly 60 percent since the duties were imposed.

The office of the US Trade Representative in Washington did not immediately comment on the ruling.

According to WTO rules, the parties have 60 days to file for an appeal.

If the United States does file an appeal though, it would basically amount to a veto of the ruling.

That is because the WTO Appellate Body — also known as the supreme court of world trade — stopped functioning in late 2019 after Washington blocked the appointment of new judges.