Greek farmers start lifting road blocks, tax workers walk

Greek farmers began lifting road blocks on Friday set up in a protest for higher prices.

Greek farmers start lifting road blocks, tax workers walk

Greek farmers began lifting road blocks on Friday set up in a protest for higher prices but tax and customs inspectors walked off the job for a second day, challenging a government trying to cope with crippling debt.

The protests, especially the 20-day farmers' blockade, are seen as a first test for the ruling socialists in their bid to shore up Greece's ailing public finances, marking the start of a series of more serious, general strikes throughout February.

"We are leaving," Vaios Ganis, a farmer in central Greece, said.

"We can't stay on the streets anymore, 20 days and no answer from the government. But we are waiting for a meeting with the prime minister, as he promised."

Prime Minister George Papandreou has repeatedly urged farmers to end the blockades that had hurt the country's image.

"The government is determined to get the country out of the crisis," Greek Agriculture Minister Katerina Batzeli said. "It can't afford the money they are asking for."

The tax and customs workers started their protest on Thursday with a rally outside the Finance Ministry in central Athens. They said the government's austerity measures would cut their salaries and they are not prepared to accept this.

Greece has promised the EU to narrow its double-digit budget shortfall to 2.8 percent of Gross Domestic Product by 2012 through welfare spending cuts, tax reforms and savings on public sector wages.

Farmers blocking the border crossing with Bulgaria have decided to continue their protest, ignoring appeals from businesses and complaints from Sofia.

The European Commission said this week it was prepared to take legal action to end the blockades at the Greek-Bulgarian border that have hurt businesses in both countries.

Farmers frequently block roads in winter time in Greece to demand higher prices and grants for their products.

Greece has one of the EU's biggest farming sectors, accounting for about 5 percent of the country's GDP. But most of it consists of small-scale farmers who rely on EU subsidies and guaranteed minimum prices to survive.


Reuters

Last Mod: 05 Şubat 2010, 15:30
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