Greek farmers throughout the country took to the roads with their tractors on Wednesday and made preparations to escalate protest action in the coming days. Among others, farmers are demanding that the government roll back new measures increasing their taxes and social insurance contributions.
Even though there were no official roadblocks, the road linking Serres with Thessaloniki was closed for nearly an hour on Wednesday afternoon due to the sheer volume of tractors at Lefkonas, which prevented vehicle traffic from getting through. Police stepped in to divert other traffic onto alternative roads but made no attempt to stop the farmers from heading for the customs post in Promachonas, the Greek-Bulgarian border. This gave farmers an opportunity to arrange their tractors by the side of the road, thus enabling traffic to go through. Police reported 60 tractors at Lefkonas, though sources told the Athens-Macedonian News Agency (ANA) that this number was gradually growing. Meanwhile, the Panhellenic Roadblocks Committee urged farmers in Larisa and all Thessaly to join the central roadblock that is to be set up on Thursday at the Nikaia junction, on the country’s main north-south highway.
The tractors will initially gather at the Gallini and Agioi Anargyroi junctions at noon on Thursday, before making their way to Nikaia, while Farsala farmers have arranged to meet at the Vasili junction at 11 a.m.
Rodopi farmers meeting in Komotini on Tuesday night decided not to blockade roads for the present, but to “isolate” the farmers that they consider “sold them out” during last year’s protests. Their first step in this direction will be their participation in a rally planned to coincide with the Zootechnia trade fair in Thessaloniki on February 2-5 though they will examine possible earlier protest action at a meeting on Sunday. If the government failed to respond to their demands, however, they warned that roadblocks were also a possibility.
In the Lasithi Plateau on Crete, meanwhile, farmers defied the bitter cold to range their tractors by the side of the road but did not block the flow of traffic.
In central and western Macedonia, meanwhile, they are gearing up to fully mobilize protest action on the weekend after a meeting by their coordinating committee on Tuesday night decided that the ranging of tractors along highways should start on Wednesday, in order to do a “headcount” and see whether the plans they have prepared can be carried out.
Sources said these plans include blocking access to the Evzones customs post on the border with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) and a strong roadblock in east Thessaloniki. A decision to finalize their plans will be made on Friday, at a meeting in Polykastro, Kilkis.
Best prepared and coordinated are the farmers in Halkidiki, Pieria, Pella, Imathia and Halkidon, followed by those in Malgara, Halastra, Kilkis and Derveni.