Visitors get into Acropolis for free

Culture Ministry workers who have been protesting in front of the Acropolis for the past three days decided to change tactics yesterday and, instead of blocking the entrance to the ancient citadel, allowed tourists in for free. The contract employees, who were yesterday supported by permanent ministry staff, had blocked the main gate to the Acropolis for the third morning in a row. However, after a standoff with riot police lasting several hours during which officers briefly forced open the entrance, the protesting civil servants moved away from the gate and blocked the ticket booth. This allowed tourists to enter the archaeological site without purchasing a ticket. Ministry workers on fixed-term contracts said that they would return to the Acropolis today to picket in front of the ticket booth and would then decide what to do on Sunday. They are protesting the fact that some colleagues have not been paid for some 20 months and are demanding the government scrap legislation that limits their employment to just two years. Prime Minister George Papandreou criticized their stance. «Nobody has the right to padlock the Acropolis and make this world heritage site their private possession,» he said in Parliament. «Such actions hurt the country. They are fodder for all those who are betting on Greece’s defeat and now rub their hands in glee.» Papandreou suggested that the Communist Party (KKE) was stoking the protests for its own political ends but KKE leader Aleka Papariga said that the problems only began when the government sent in the riot police in. New Democracy attempted to draw a contrast between the recent ugly incidents at the Acropolis and the success of the opening of the Acropolis Museum last year when ND leader Antonis Samaras was culture minister.

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