NEWS

Government braces for farmers’ descent on Athens

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Hundreds of farmers from various parts of Greece are expected to descend on Athens on Friday to protest against planned increases to their tax and social security contributions but the government hopes that the demonstration will not be as well-attended as initially thought.

It was not clear on Thursday night if farmers would attempt to drive their tractors into the city center, as Vangelis Boutas, one of the leading unionists from the agricultural sector, had promised. Boutas said he wanted around 100 tractors to reach Syntagma Square in a symbolic protest.

The government, however, has said that the traffic police should step in and prevent farmers from entering the capital on tractors if they decide to go ahead with their plans. The coalition has offered to bus farmers into the center if they leave their tractors on the outskirts of the city.

The government is hoping that the farmers’ presence in Athens will not be particularly impressive as it has been receiving information that protesters from some parts of the country have decided not to take part in the demonstration.

In a bid to convince the protesters to negotiate with the government, Agricultural Development Minister Vangelis Apostolou is on Friday expected to announce that the coalition is open to the idea of maintaining the farmers’ pension fund, OGA, as an independent entity for a transitional period before it is merged with others to create a single fund.