Cabbies out in force to protest

Striking taxi drivers on Monday blocked access to Athens International Airport, the city center and the port of Piraeus in protest at the liberalization of their profession.

Some 3,000 of the capital?s 14,000 cabbies parked their yellow vehicles along a stretch of the highway leading to the airport, blocking off all but one lane and resulting in delays to several flights. Another 2,500 taxis assembled at the Piraeus port, hampering the flow of passengers.

Prosecutor Eleni Raikou ordered police to intervene and arrest the protesting taxi drivers if necessary. Cabbies later attempted to block one of the main avenues leading to the Parliament, but were prevented by police from reaching Syntagma Square — the front line of mass demonstrations against the government?s anti-austerity measures.

Taxi drivers, who are also striking on Tuesday, are protesting government plans to open up their profession, in line with demands by the country?s international creditors, the European Union and the International Monetary Fund. Architects, pharmacists, lawyers and notaries will also be affected by the deregulation campaign.

A statement from the office of Culture and Tourism Minister Pavlos Geroulanos said, ?The way in which this protest is being carried out is very bad, at a critical time for tourism, on which every Greek family depends, including those of taxi drivers.?

The Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises said yesterday?s disruption exacerbated the damage caused by recurring riots in the capital.

?In the middle of the most crucial tourism period of the past few years, taxi drivers have dealt yet another serious blow to the country?s image,? it said in a statement.

The cabbies are attempting to pressure the government to back down on its plan to remove all limits to the number of taxi licenses that can be issued.

Transport Minister Yiannis Ragousis has said he has no intention of reintroducing limits and exceptions included in the first draft of the law by his predecessor Dimitris Reppas.

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