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Farmers scale up protests in bid for concessions

Farmers stand next to parked tractors near Nikaia, some 380 kms north of Athens and one km before the highway linking Thessaloniki to Athens, during a protest Tuesday.

Protesting farmers parked hundreds of tractors at a key junction of the Athens-Thessaloniki national highway on Tuesday, causing several hours of traffic chaos, in a bid to wrench concessions from the government.

Some 2,000 farmers joined the protest at the Nikaia junction and unionists indicated that more action would come unless authorities meet with unionists to discuss their demands, which include the introduction of a tax-free threshold, minimum guaranteed prices for their products, continued state subsidies, tax-free fuel and cheap electricity.

Dozens of farmers joined a smaller protest in Fthiotida, with tensions breaking out when police tried to push back protesters driving their tractors toward the highway junction near Lamia.

Unionists met with the head of PASOK, Evangelos Venizelos, on Tuesday and insisted on further talks with Prime Minister Antonis Samaras when the latter returns from Qatar. Venizelos called for “dialogue and solutions” and said, “No protest can be allowed to create problems for society as a whole.” The three coalition leaders are expected to discuss the farmers and their problems when they meet on Friday.

Meanwhile, the head of the leftist opposition SYRIZA, Alexis Tsipras, has thrown his weight behind the farmers after meeting unionists in Athens. “Farmers are not beggars but are simply demanding the right to produce wealth,” Tsipras said.

Sources within SYRIZA have indicated that if the leftists were to come to power they would seek alliances with other parties and non-political figures.

ekathimerini.com , Tuesday Jan 29, 2013 (21:41)  
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