Farmers stand fast

01/25/2010
Protesting farmers remained at their roadblocks throughout Greece on Saturday and Sunday, obstructing the flow of traffic on many roads and determined to force the government to concede to their demands.

The border blockade at Promahonas, on the Greek-Bulgarian border, was temporarily opened from Saturday night as Serres farmers were awaiting the results of their meeting with Agricultural Development and Foods Minister Katerina Batzeli on Monday.

Their representatives stressed, however, that they were ready to escalate their protest action from Monday, not ruling out a blockade of the Thessaloniki-Bulgaria rail connection, if their demands were refused.

Their protests have had an impact on the local ski resorts, which had expected heightened traffic as a result of the recent snows but had few visitors, since few excursionists braved the prospect of finding roads closed by tractors.

In addition to several intersections and border crossings, farmers used tractors to obstruct the passage of trucks and heavy goods vehicles at the port of Igoumenitsa in northwestern Greece, preventing truckers from boarding ferries for Italy or leaving the port.

Goods vehicles coming off the ferry “Champion” of ANEK lines remained trapped inside the port after their arrival from Italy.

A public prosecutor has visited the port of Igoumenitsa to hold talks with the farmers, while several trucks that had intended to board the “Superfast” ferry to Italy were waiting outside the port.

In a comment on the protests in the newspaper “Free Sunday”, Batzeli stressed that the yearly going forth of tractors onto the roads every winter by farmers was doing them a disservice and “sending the wrong messages to society, which saw and judged them.”

The minister stressed that representatives of all production and social bodies will be meeting at Zappion on Monday for the start of dialogue on farm issues, while the invitation to the representatives of the farmers at the road blocks to take part and outline their positions and proposals remained open.

Batzeli also stressed that the amounts demanded by farmers were excessive: “given that those eligible for farming subsidies number nearly 900,000, if we gave 15,000 euros for every agricultural enterprise the total would be in the region of 13.5 billion euros,” she pointed out.

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