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German discontent continues to grow

Германското недоволство продължава да расте

Farmers blocked major roads and blocked traffic across Germany with their tractors as part of a week of protests against a plan to scrap tax breaks for diesel used in agriculture.
They continued with the demonstrations despite the government's attempts to change its original plan, saying that the car tax exemption for agricultural vehicles would be kept and the reduction of tax relief for diesel would be staggered for three years.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz called for calm and a willingness to accept compromises on Saturday as the country faced protests by farmers angry at a plan to cut their fuel subsidies. According to him, farmers' discontent is one side of the coin, and the other involves individuals who are fomenting fury against a background of wider discontent.

"We have taken farmers' arguments to heart," he said, and urged the government to come up with a "good compromise" even as farmers continue to demand a full reversal of subsidy cuts.
Scholz added that compromises are also an essential part of democracy. But now, he says, "anger is being deliberately stoked on a gigantic scale, extremists are condemning any compromise, including on social media, and poisoning any democratic debate."
The plan to scrap the tax breaks is a result of the need to plug a big hole in the 2024 budget. The farmers' protests come at a time of deep general dissatisfaction with the center-left Scholz's three-party government, which has become notorious for frequent public spats.
Scholz acknowledged issues that go beyond farm subsidies, saying that crises, conflicts and worries about the future are what really worry people.
Politically, the far-right Alternative for Germany party has gained strength over the past year and is currently second in national polls with more than 20% support, behind the main centre-right opposition bloc but ahead of the parties in Scholz's coalition.
Germany faces European Parliament elections in June and three state elections in September in the former communist east, where AfD is particularly strong.
Authorities have warned that far-right groups and others may try to take advantage of the farmers' protests, and the demonstrations have come under scrutiny after a widely condemned incident in previous days in which a group of demonstrators prevented Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck from getting off a ferry at a small port in the North Sea while returning from a personal trip to a coastal island.

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