Government fails to win farmers over

As thousands of farmers across the country kept their tractors parked at key road junctions for the seventh day in a row yesterday, paralyzing transport, Agricultural Development Minister Sotiris Hatzigakis pledged to provide farmers with the precise details of subsidies they are demanding as a precondition for calling off their action. Emerging from a three-hour meeting with unionists representing several road blockades across the country, Hatzigakis said he was confident that the government would «satisfy the farmers» and that there would «no longer be any reason for tractors to remain on the roads.» But the minister stressed that there was no chance of any increase to a proposed 500-million-euro aid package to farmers. «The government will not give one euro more than this,» he said. Some details about the breakdown of the aid package, per product and per hectare, were revealed yesterday and the remainder will be announced today, Hatzigakis said. Farmers leaving yesterday’s meeting did not appear particularly enthused, with some saying that they had «expected more» and others stressing that roadblocks would continue. There were also signs that the movement had splintered. Unionists attending yesterday’s meeting represented only one section of farmers. A new group, calling itself the Greek Farmers’ Coordinating Body, is due to send representatives to talk with ministry officials in Athens today. In the meantime, tractors remained parked at dozens of strategic points across the national road network and near the borders with Turkey and Bulgaria. Blockades set up several days ago along the Athens-Thessaloniki national road and in northern and western Greece remained in place over the weekend, while several new ones sprung up. One of the largest new blockades was on the national road connecting Antirio, in western Greece, to the northwestern town of Ioannina. Farmers also set up new blockades at the junctions of Malgara, Halkidona and Yiannitsa. Farmers have threatened to spread disruption into the Peloponnese today by blocking the bridge over the Isthmus of Corinth.

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