Farmers stand firm as talks fail

Protesting farmers pressed on yesterday with a third week of strike action, blocking key road junctions and border crossings, after a third meeting with Agriculture Minister Katerina Batzeli failed to yield a compromise. Livestock farmers joined the action by crop producers, spilling milk onto roads in symbolic protests aimed at drawing attention to dropping retail prices for their goods. Representatives from several blockades in Thessaly and Macedonia declared their determination to press on with their action after a meeting with Batzeli yesterday ended in deadlock. The third meeting with the minister followed a marathon session of talks between unionists on Monday that ran well into the night, lasting nearly six hours. According to a spokesperson for farmers in Kilkis, Giorgos Terzis, the measures heralded by Batzeli would not save them from an «asphyxiating» situation. «Even most of the institutional reforms that have been announced are abstract and lack a timeframe,» he remarked. The farmers said they would release a statement explaining their decision to maintain roadblocks, which have crippled transport and strained cross-border relations. They are expected to press their demands for a meeting with Prime Minister George Papandreou. The premier has not responded directly to farmers’ requests for a face-to-face meeting with him but yesterday reiterated calls to the producers to adopt a responsible stance as the government «has no leeway for satisfying the financial demands of various sectors.»

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