Farmers’ united front crumbles

As farmers withdrew yesterday from another key road blockade at Tempe in Thessaly, the government faced a further problem as it emerged that the European Commission has not been informed about the 500-million-euro aid package extended to Greek farmers. Agricultural Development Minister Sotiris Hatzigakis told reporters that he had telephoned the competent European commissioner, Mariann Fischer Boel, but had not found her. He struck a reassuring tone, saying that he would speak with the commissioner over the next few days and «brief her on all the details of the package.» However if the aid package offered to farmers by Hatzigakis is found to violate European Union limits for state aid, the government could face serious repercussions, including possible cuts to the next scheduled tranche of EU funding. One positive development for the government however was yesterday’s gradual disintegration of a united farmers’ front. Producers withdrew their tractors from the junction at Tempe in Thessaly, one of the most stubborn blockades of the past week. Some Tempe farmers remained defiant, keeping their tractors on standby, but the highway was opened to traffic. Several other blockades opened up along the Athens-Thessaloniki highway as hundreds of farmers, chiefly those affiliated to ruling New Democracy, decided to end their action. Some farmers stood their ground however and roadblocks remained in place at the key junctions of Malgara and Halkidona. A Thessaloniki prosecutor intervened, taking action against the farmers at these two junctions for hindering public transport. A prosecutor in Serres lodged a similar charge against farmers who have been blocking the Promachonas crossing on the border with Bulgaria for the past 10 days.

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