Farmers resolved to stay put

Protesting farmers yesterday maintained blockades at dozens of key road junctions and border crossings, and threatened to set up more, despite government appeals for them to call off the action, which has crippled trade and fueled anger in neighboring countries. Of around 30 blockades across the country, the one at the Promachonas crossing was the most disruptive, obliging trucks to wait in line for hours on either side of the Greek-Bulgarian border. In a sign of good will, protesting farmers lifted their blockade for a few hours on Wednesday night so that trucks carrying perishable goods could cross. But the blockade resumed early yesterday. As aggravation among Greek and Bulgarian traders intensified, a prosecutor in Serres ordered police to take legal action against the farmers for holding up transport. However trade unionists did not appear to be fazed by the prosecutor’s move, perhaps because some 70 legal suits lodged against them over the past two years are still pending. With the ongoing action provoking serious losses for many Greek businesses, trade associations yesterday spoke out against the farmers, who are seeking subsidies to make up for low crop prices and high production costs. Many traders showed little sympathy for the producers’ predicament. «The farmers finish their work, get bored sitting around in cafes and come out onto the streets,» remarked Vassilis Korkidis, the president of the National Confederation of Greek Commerce (ESEE). Prime Minister George Papandreou, who has invited unionists to round-table talks next week, is today expected to be questioned in Parliament by opposition leaders about the disruption being caused by the ongoing road blockades. Deputy Prime Minister Theodoros Pangalos said yesterday, «We feel for the farmers… but no one can impose their will on the rest of society.»

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