Dozens of protesting farmers occupied tax offices in Lamia and Arta in Central and Western Greece, and Chania on the island of Crete, hindering employees from entering their work place.
Two days before the general strike on Thursday, the farmers have intensified their protests and close to traffic Greece’s main highways and customs points and have trucks and vehicles form long queues.
- the junction of Tempi on Greece’s main highway form the south to the north will be close for 12 hours today, Tuesday, Feb 2nd 2016.
- Customs point in Promachonas at the Greek-Bulgarian borders is also often closed to traffic, hindering trucks but also private vehicles and buses to cross.
- Toll posts at Malgara, Chalkidona and Egnatia highway will be also closed to traffic for several hours.
- Problems are expected also in Evzoni customs at Greek-FYROM borders.
- blockades have been set up also in other national roads across the country, with farmers make it possible by parking some 400-800 tractors in the average.
The farmers protest the upcoming pensions and tax reform and refuse to meet with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to discuss their issues and maybe strike a deal for some exceptions. They demand the dialogue with the Greek PM to start on “zero basis” and occupationally have some delusional demands like “tax-free for up to 30,000 euro annual income.” Today they gave a 5-day deadline to the government to withdraw the pension and tax reform threatening to intensify their protests even more. The government claims that “some extreme right-wing and fascists have infiltrated the farmers’ protests with the aim to destabilize the political situation.” What is true is that New Democracy has started to bring up scenarios of early elections ever since the conservative party elected a new leader beginning of January.
So far there has been no shortage in the supply of vegetables and fruits in the markets of the big cities due to the farmers protests that have been ongoing for some 10 days. However, Greek mainstream media, started the usual fear-mongering, claiming that “there will be shortages soon.”
This morning I saw a live report from an open market (laiki) in suburb in Athens on a private television channel. The “journalist” (?) presented the illogical claim:
“There are a few people in the market this morning, they do not buy because they fear that prices might go up due to shortages.”
But this is one of the major problems of this left-wing government: to have all mainstream media against it – blame the government’s Bill to auction the TV licences and have media owners finally pay for them.
The upcoming pension reform with the incredible social contributions hikes and in combination with the over taxation of self-employed and free-lancers will kill every small and medium business. But the Greek society is divided over the farmers’ protests. Especially the residents in the cities blame the farmers for having swallowed millions of EU Agricultural funds for decades and turned them into 4×4 vehicles and villas instead to further develop their agricultural fields.
On the other hand, their social security fund (OGA) has been formally looted as everyone who had a profession in the city and a couple of acres in the village could claim an OGA-pension of 360 euro with very low or zero contributions. Furthermore the OGA had a kind of ‘social profile’ granting pensions to so-called “diaspora Greeks” mainly from Albania and the Black Sea region.
I remember very well the case of an Albanian granny who came to claim an OGA-pension. She came for the first time in her life in Greece just for the sake of the pension. that was in 2009, if I’m not wrong. it was the mother of my aunt’s cleaning lady.
Now my aunt asks: what right do the farmers have to block the highways and close the traffic. my auntie who is now 80 years old has been a socialist all her life. And she still is. It’s only that she developed an aversion towards the unions, claiming that “they look after their own interests and they don’t care about the interest of the broader society.”
PS yes, I come from a romantic family…. \o/