Talks between ministers, farmers break down

Talks between four ministers and unionists representing farmers who have been pushing for tax breaks and other concessions broke down on Monday, prompting producers to herald further protest action.

Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras, who met the farmers along with his counterparts holding the labor, agriculture and environment portfolios, said that the government “listened to the farmers’ demands” but noted that the “possibilities, within the constricting fiscal framework, are small.”

“Nevertheless, efforts are continuing,” Stournaras told reporters.

He said the government aimed to offer farmers a special card that would give them discounts on a special consumption tax on fuel and was also considering introducing legislation that would allow all farmers to retire after 40 years of service.

Unionists were less positive. “The government gave us nothing,” said Vangelis Boutas, who heads the association of farmers from Karditsa in central Greece. “For us this is a struggle for survival; we will scale up our action,” he said, referring to the roadside blockades that farmers have been holding for several weeks in a bid to wrest concessions.

Last Friday Prime Minister Antonis Samaras met with protesting farmers and expressed satisfaction after talks, fueling hopes of a resolution to the impasse.

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