Greek farmers ease roads blockade after gov't support package

Others farmers were still blocking traffic across Greece's land borders.

Greek farmers ease roads blockade after gov't support package

Some Greek farmers began to lift a nationwide road blockade of roads on Thursday after accepting a government support package, but others were still blocking traffic across Greece's land borders.

The 11-day-old farmers' protests are piling pressure on the Athens government, already battered from riots last month, as it struggles to cope with the economic crisis.

The downturn has already triggered violent protests in the Baltic states and Iceland as well as Greece, and in France hundreds of thousands of workers went on strike on Thursday demanding better protection of jobs and wages.

Greece's farmers are demanding higher subsidies and tax rebates to compensate for the slump. The government has offered 500 million euros for some products such as cotton, olive oil and wheat, but not others such as oranges, fruit and rice.

Some farmers' unions in southern and central Greece accepted the package and began removing the tractor blockades that had closed Greece's main arterial roads.

But other farmers at key land border crossings and the main agricultural town of Larisa in central Greece stayed put, saying they would decide on further action on Thursday.

The borders were being opened to traffic only for a short while every few hours.

"We are staying because the measures are not for everyone and because they do not include all of our produce," George Goniotakis, head of the Federation of Greek Farmers' Associations, told Reuters on his way to talk to farmers in Crete.

"We will see how we will proceed. We are open to further discussions with the ministry, as long as it promises to provide details."

The protests have revived speculation that the ruling conservative New Democracy party -- which has a one-seat majority in parliament -- could become the latest victim of Europeans' anger at the global crisis.

Icelandic Prime Minister Geir Haarde resigned on Monday after a wave of street protests toppled his coalition.

France's eight labour unions called on public and private sector workers to go on strike on Thursday to demand more action from the government and companies to protect jobs and salaries.

The strike aims to highlight fears of growing unemployment, discontent over President Sarkozy's reluctance to help consumers, and resentment towards the bankers blamed for the economic slump.

In Greece, ministers say the slump leaves no room to offer more to farmers and other hard-hit groups. Falling tax revenues are bloating an already-wide budget deficit.

The European Commission predicts Greece's economic growth will fall to 0.2 percent this year, its worst level in 16 years.

Reuters
Last Mod: 29 Ocak 2009, 16:20
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