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Drivers occupy the streets of Athens

21 September 2010 / 12:09:09  GRReporter
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Drivers of trucks and tanks for public use gathered at the Omonia Square where they started their protest march, waving Greek flags saying "No! to the seizure of our property.” The protest march ends on Syntagma Square in front of the parliament building, where the drivers will sit in a 24-hour protest against the final acceptance of the law on the liberalization of transport services in Greece. The final vote of the law will be on Wednesday, September 22 and it is expected to come into force immediately. Main street traffic arteries of Athens will be hampered as the boulevards Piraeus, Stadiu, Amalias, Vassilis Sofias will be gradually blocked during the day.

Protesters demand mainly to abolish the reform of public transport services. This, of course, is impossible because the market liberalization is part of the government's plan to restore the economic stability in Greece. It is also recorded as a condition in the Memorandum for financial assistance signed with the eurozone countries and the International Monetary Fund. Furthermore, the economic experts have estimated that the benefits after the liberalization of the transport services will bring 1% in GDP annually following the logic of the free market.

When the drivers realized that the position of the government of George Papandreou was adamant, they demanded financial compensation. It should be equal to a part of the value of the purchased licenses and paid to all 30,000 affected by the reform. Protesters also demand to be allowed to retire earlier than recorded in the law. According to recent changes in it, people with 40 years of service or at the age of 60 are entitled to retire. Last but not least is the extension of the transitional period for the liberalization of the sector from three to five years.

Discontented drivers of public buses arrived early in the morning from all over the country (Serres, Grevenas, Thessaloniki, Crete, etc..) to the capital to become part of the protest. Their colleagues from the 20 blockades in the Attica region will join them. They have parked more than 830 trucks and tanks for more than 10 days at the entrances of the main roads leading to the capital.

Four representatives of the Athens prosecutor's office will be at the protest to ensure its properness. They will observe the behaviour of the protesters. Their presence should also prevent accidents like the one in the summer when a group of drivers beaten a team of journalists in front of the Ministry of Transport. The reason for the attack, according to drivers, is that journalists did not present the protest impartially thus undermining the public image of the strikers.

In Thessaloniki there are already shortages in the market. They are mostly in medicines supplies, namely insulin, as well as commodity goods – milk products that can not be delivered from production sites to commercial centers in town. Trucks and tanks of protesters remain parked in six different locations around the city, hampering the traffic to and from the northern capital of Greece. At the same time, over 2850 containers are blocked at the port of Thessaloniki that take about 60% of the storage capacity of the port. According to representatives of business circles in the country, the detention of 2500 export containers costs the local economy € 20 million a day.

More details will be submitted later in the day.

Tags: ProtestsDriversAthensGreeceNews
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