Farmers dig in their heels

Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis yesterday instructed his ministers to intensify negotiations with the farmers protesting falling commodity prices as tractor blockades on major road junctions caused traffic chaos across the country. There had been no breakthrough by late last night as talks continued between unionists representing the farmers on the one hand and Agricultural Development Minister Sotiris Hatzigakis and Economy and Finance Minister Yiannis Papathanassiou on the other. Sources told Kathimerini that the ministers would be in a position to offer the farmers a compromise by the end of the week. Hatzigakis had said on Tuesday that the government would do «everything possible» to find a solution to the farmers’ problems. The farmers’ demands include higher subsidies and pension payments as well as lower fuel taxes. Producers are particularly upset about the plummeting prices of cotton, corn and wheat, which are set by the European Union, and claim that they are struggling to make a living. Several road blockades remained in place yesterday in northern and central Greece as farmers sought to drive home their discontent while unionists battled it out with government officials in Athens. Two of the most stubborn protests were at the junctions of Tempe and Mikrothives in Magnesia. The region of Macedonia was riddled with roadblocks, notably on the Egnatia Highway in Kavala. There were also problems near the border with Bulgaria, where protesting farmers clashed with truck drivers stuck in traffic. The worst clashes were at the Promachona border crossing where trapped truck drivers drove toward parked tractors in a bid to force them out of the way. Farmers took their tractors out onto the roads on Crete again yesterday but an occupation of Iraklion airport, where some 1,500 local farmers had set up camp, came to an end. Still the blockage of access roads to the airport led to the cancellation of around 20 flights.

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