NEWS

Cabbies persist as political rift grows

Taxi drivers on Tuesday continued to protest against the planned liberalization of their sector as the government showed no signs of shifting its stance on the reforms.

Transport Minister Yiannis Ragousis?s insistence on the full deregulation of the sector also caused a stir in Parliament, where he came under fire from several MPs – including prominent cadres of ruling PASOK – for his handling of the affair.

Even the head of Parliament?s economic affairs committee, Vasso Papandreou, castigated Ragousis for trying to introduce tough measures in August. ?Do you understand the implications of this in the middle of the tourist season?? Papandreou said.

Ragousis insisted that the reforms would go through as foreseen. ?I say this to whoever believes we have given in to pressure and blackmail: We will not back down.?

The head of the Attica taxi drivers? union, Thymios Lyberopoulos, was just as stubborn, telling Kathimerini, ?We are not stopping, we will carry on,? despite reports that some want to call off their action which has cost them dearly over the past 16 days.

Cabbies staged protests in various cities and ports on Tuesday but much of the action was more symbolic than disruptive.

On Crete they took over the entrance to the Knossos archaeological site, allowing visitors free access in a bid to counter criticism that they are undermining tourism. In Patra, western Greece, cabbies ferried cruise passengers from the western port to historical sites and landmarks for free.

There were protests in Thessaloniki too, where demonstrators set a cab on fire.

Athens taxi drivers rallied outside the Transport Ministry again and briefly blocked nearby Mesogeion Avenue.