German gov't condemns farmers' blockade of vice chancellor on ferry

BERLIN, Jan. 5 (Xinhua) -- The German government on Friday criticized a group of angry farmers for preventing Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck from leaving a ferry on a private trip. Farmers across the country have been protesting for weeks against the planned suppression of agricultural subsidies.

More than 100 farmers were waiting for Habeck in Schluettsiel in Schleswig-Holstein on Thursday evening, blocking the dock. The ferry eventually returned where it had come from, and Habeck, who is also minister for economic affairs and climate action, was only able to continue his journey late at night.

The German Farmers' Association on Friday distanced itself from the blockade action. "Personal attacks, insults, threats, coercion or violence are not acceptable. Regardless of any displeasure, we naturally respect the privacy of politicians," the association's president Joachim Rukwied said.

In response to the recent protests, the German government made its first concessions to farmers on Thursday. Instead of an immediate abolition of agricultural diesel subsidies, these are now to be gradually reduced. Meanwhile, the planned abolition of a vehicle tax exemption was completely withdrawn.

"Together we have found a solution that averts a disproportionate burden on agriculture and forestry," said Minister of Agriculture Cem Oezdemir.

The farmers' association, however, considers this to be insufficient, and is unwilling to accept any cuts at all. "This is clearly also about the future viability of our industry and the question of whether domestic food production is still desirable at all," Rukwied stressed.

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