Greek Farmers Consider More Highway Blockades in January

FILE - Farmers shut down the Athens-Thessaloniki highway in both directions at the Nikea roundabout, Larissa area, on Monday, Jan. 28, 2019. (Photo by Eurokinissi/Thanasis Kaliaras)

LARISSA – It hasn’t worked yet but Greek farmers said they may try again with blockades of the country’s major north-south highway using tractors as a protest demanding cheaper diesel fuel and higher subsidies for their products.

A farmers’ meeting Dec. 15 near the central Greek city of Larissa did not take binding decisions but blocking highways was a seriously considered option, said the state-run Athens-Macedonia News Agency (ANA-MPA.)

The farmers did decide they will stage a protest at the biggest expo of agricultural products, Agrotica, to be held in Thessaloniki in early February although successive governments haven’t bent to their tactics.

In January, 2018, Greek farmers stepped up demonstrations by parking their tractors at a major junction on a national highway, all ignored by the-then ruling Radical Left SYRIZA-led coalition.

The head of the union representing farmers from Trikala, Apostolos Thomopoulos, told ANA-MPA that protesters would reinforce the road block every day, bringing more and more tractors after previously parking them by the side of roads while traffic went by.

Farmers then wanted lower production costs, tax-free oil, better rates for electricity and water, the abolition of value-added tax on agricultural supplies and vehicles, and exemption from the hated ENFIA property tax surcharge that former Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said he would scrap but continued to impose after reneging on anti-austerity promises.

The blockades have become almost an annual event sideshow ignored by the government even though they sometimes last for weeks and disrupt traffic and the flow of goods out of the country.

The head of farmers’ groups from Karditsa, Vangelis Boutas, said, “There is no other path than the path of resistance and unity with other working-class groups,” said Kathimerini.

They did the same in 2017 but ended the blockades in mid-February without gaining anything while demanding changes to measures including tax and social security hikes they couldn’t stop.