NEWS

PM appeals to farmers to lift blocks

Prime Minister George Papandreou yesterday appealed to protesting farmers to lift blockades at key road junctions and border crossings, as the country’s hoteliers lodged a slew of legal suits against the action which has crippled their trade over the past three weeks. «There is no more scope for roadblocks,» Papandreou said, appealing to the producers to show a more responsible stance as the government struggles to apply the austerity measures needed to get the economy moving again. According to sources, concern is mounting in the premier’s office about the possible repercussions of continued action by the farmers, particularly as tax and customs officials are planning walkouts this week and the civil servants’ union ADEDY gears up for a major strike next Wednesday. Nevertheless, Papandreou stopped short of threatening action to force the farmers’ tractors off the roads. Similarly, Agricultural Minister Katerina Batzeli, who failed to reach a compromise in talks with protesting farmers over the weekend, has also been low-key. Yesterday she simply reiterated her hope that the producers would «face their responsibilities.» As Papandreou prepares for a week of official visits, it will be down to Batzeli and the premier’s deputy, Theodoros Pangalos, to tackle the farmers. Today representatives of blockades in Thessaly and Macedonia are to meet to discuss how to continue their action. Meanwhile, hoteliers have lodged eight legal suits calling for action to be taken against «all those responsible» for the massive losses in revenue they have incurred due to transport disruptions.