Greek PM holds new round of talks with farmers

Greek PM holds new round of talks with farmers

After a second round of meetings on Thursday between Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and farmers who are resisting increases to their tax and social security contributions, the government is hopeful that it will see a winding down of their roadside protests around the country.

Tsipras met with the representatives of 68 roadblocks on Thursday after holding talks with the heads of 52 roadside pickets on Monday. The prime minister repeated on Thursday the proposal he made to the farmers he met at the beginning of the week, which aims to ensure that those in the agricultural sector earning low incomes will not pay higher tax and contributions.

“Opposite me today, I have farmers, hardworking people, who do not belong to a minority that has been pampered over the last few years,” said Tsipras.

“We must focus our attention on the large majority in the farming world that continues to have a tough time.”

The proposals made to the farmers on Monday would mean that nobody in the agricultural sector earning less than 20,000 euros per year in income and subsidies would pay more in tax and social security contributions.

Farmers would also be able to choose a lower rate of social security contributions (16 percent versus 20 percent from 2021) but would then only be able to claim a pension of 307 euros per month.

The farmers did not indicate on Thursday that they had been convinced by the government’s proposals but there were indications that they are at least considering suspending their protests along national highways.

“There is a proposal being discussed for us to withdraw on Saturday because people are tired,” Giorgos Machas, a farmer from the roadblock at the Vale of Tempe in central Greece, told Kathimerini. “We will then be on standby to return to action when the government prepares to submit the pension reforms to Parliament.”

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