GR US

Upset, Greek Farmers Will Block Roads Again in Protest

The National Herald

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 angry over a number of issues upsetting them said they will again block roads in protest, a tactic they’ve repeatedly used to no avail and which has succeeded only in traffic jams.

Farmers from Larissa, central Greece, said they will take the action in a demonstration against high production costs, the prices of farming products and state social insurance contributions, the state-run Athens-Macedonia News Agency (ANA-MPA) said.

According to the Larissa Federation of Farming Unions, the farmers of the region will take their tractors out onto the roads and blockade the Platykambos and Farsala junctions on the national highway on Dec. 4.

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,”  according to 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.

The farmers at that time used their tractors and equipment, primarily in northern Greece and along the borders with Bulgaria and FYROM, preventing the movement of cargo to those countries, cutting into Greek exports.