Transport Minister Christos Spirtzis appeared in an Athens court on Thursday as a witness for the defense of Attica taxi drivers’ union (SATA) chief Thymios Lymberopoulos, who is being sued by the CEO of ride-hailing app Beat, Nick Drandakis, for slander.
Lymberopoulos, who played a key role in the composition of a new law that imposes stricter regulations on the operation of ride-hailing services in Greece, has been calling for reforms to that legislative framework, keen to preserve the taxi drivers’ hold of the market.
Hundreds of taxi drivers turned up at the courtroom to support their union leader during a 12-hour walkout on Thursday.
Spirtzis, for his part, cautiously defended Lymberopoulos, who represents some 50,000 taxi drivers.
As regards the allegedly slanderous comments the taxi union chief is said to have made against Beat and Drandakis, the minister said Lymberopoulos had simply been “doing his duty to defend his sector.”
The new regulations effectively imposed order on what had been a legal vacuum, he told the court.
However, Spirtzis stressed to reporters on his departure, that the legislative framework governing the operation of taxis and ride-hailing apps is now “complete” and that no further changes will be made, indirectly rejecting a bid by Lymberopoulos to introduce further reforms.
From Beat’s side, a spokeswoman said that Lymberopoulos’s claims that the company was guilty of tax evasion and breaking Greek laws were “incorrect and false.”
The claims caused Beat significant losses, according to the spokeswoman for the company, which is seeking 260,000 euros in damages from Lymberopoulos for slander.
Greek authorities imposed stricter regulations on the sector earlier this year, including obliging app operators to apply for permits and use licensed drivers or face heavy fines.
The move led global ride-hailing service Uber, which has faced legal wrangles in other countries, to suspend operations in Greece.