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Will Austria see disruptive farmer protests as in Germany?

Amanda Previdelli
Amanda Previdelli - [email protected]
Will Austria see disruptive farmer protests as in Germany?
Farmers demonstrate against government plans to scrap diesel tax subsidies for agriculture vehicles in Frankfurt, western Germany, on January 11, 2024. (Photo by Kirill KUDRYAVTSEV / AFP)

Activists are rallying on social media to hold a farmer's protest in Vienna on Sunday. Here's what's happening and why the far-right may be behind it.


Thousands of angry farmers have blocked roads in Germany and protested in the capital Berlin against plans to cut tax breaks for agriculture - and as approval ratings for centre-left chancellor Olaf Scholz's three-way coalition reaches an all-time low. 

The protests, which lasted for a week and were accompanied by marches by other sectors, from metallurgy to transport and education, attracted far-right demonstrations in the country - sparking fears that extremist groups were looking to exploit the movement.

In some demonstrations, known far-right, neo-Nazi and conspiracy theorists groups were seen brandishing royalist flags and mocked-up pictures of German politicians dressed as prisoners. 

READ ALSO: Austria's far-right leader defends plans for 're-migration' and revoking citizenship

There are no planned benefit cuts for Austria, but a call for a farmers' demonstration in Vienna is circulating on social media.

The invitation is for a "trip to Vienna" on Friday, and "Austrian farmers" sign the alleged messages.

Far-right instigation

According to a Kurier report, the Austrian Farmers' Union (Österreichischer Bauernbund) has tracked down the originator of the messages: the far-right party FPÖ, which has also formally registered for a rally in the Austrian capital.

In a press release, the union warns that the Freedom Party wants to "instrumentalise farmers for its own party purposes" and clearly distance themselves from the protest call.

"There is a big difference between Austria and its German neighbour, where protests are currently taking place: In Austria, farmers are represented in the federal government", the union said, according to the report. 

The FPÖ is invited to constructive talks to discuss the concerns of farmers, according to the union. 

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'Solidarity with farmers' protests'

The far-right Freedom Party, though, sees it differently. Party representatives marched together with German farmers in "solidarity with farmers concerns", according to an FPÖ statement.

"We show solidarity with the concerns of German farmers! Domestic farmers are struggling with similar problems. Over-regulation and oppression through irrational climate policy must finally come to an end!" the politicians wrote.

The FPÖ has risen in polls particularly by marketing themselves as the "people's party", taking stances such as strong opposition to COVID-19 measures, and making controversial and populist statements on migration, asylum policies and inflation. 

READ ALSO: UPDATE: Why is support for Austria's far-right FPÖ rising?

The centre-right party ÖVP's farmers association released a statement in response to the FPÖ. "In contrast to Germany, the national agricultural budget has been significantly increased, an EU-wide unique 'impulse program for agriculture'’ amounting to € 360 million has been launched and supported with the electricity cost subsidy and the electricity cost brake. 

"Austria's agricultural policy is also characterised at the EU level by a strong commitment to sustainable agriculture that produces food, raw materials and energy", they said.


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