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Farmers are starting to block roads

29 January 2014 / 21:01:13  GRReporter
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Anastasia Balezdrova

The new round of protests of farmers in Greece has been triggered by an amendment to the law, which will increase the taxation of the sector and oblige all farmers to keep books. It is expected that the parliament will vote on the legal text on Thursday.

In many regions, farmers have already driven their tractors to the village squares whereas some of their colleagues, such as those in the area of Imatia, resorted to drastic actions and held a symbolic occupation of tax offices. In statements to the Athens News Agency AMNA vice-president of the local spontaneous movement of farmers Kostas Lioliopoulos said this was their way "to exert pressure on the political governance in relation to tomorrow's vote on the amendment concerning the taxes for farmers."

GRReporter contacted the chairman of the Independent Farmers Union in Serres, Yiannis Tourtouras, who said that farmers in Greece are ready to start mass protests. "We are going out into the squares for many reasons, the first of them being the changes in taxation. Under the new law, all farmers with an annual turnover of more than 10,000 euro are required to keep books. This will be detrimental to small and medium farmers, bearing in mind the fact that the cost of bookkeeping alone is 500 euro per year.

Tourtouras said that the counter offer of the farmers is to raise the "bar" for those obliged to keep books to 40,000 euro. Today representatives of the Greek commission of road blockades presented the proposal to Minister of Agriculture Athanasios Tsavtaris. The other demands of farmers include the following: exempting from excise duty the naphtha used by them, setting minimum guaranteed prices for agricultural and livestock production and stopping the judicial persecution of farmers who are unable to pay their tax obligations.

Yiannis Tourtouras said that the farmers from Northern Greece would participate in the large protest rally in Thessaloniki on Saturday, 1 February. Like last year, they want to present their claims during the 25th international exhibition of agricultural machinery, equipment and materials that will take place between 30 January and 2 February.

He avoided clarifying whether the farmers are planning to start roadblocks with the words, "I cannot say anything about this. Currently our goal is the protest rally in Thessaloniki. After that, the local commissions will hold meetings to establish the number of tractors that would participate in possible protest actions and will then take the appropriate decisions."

When asked by GRReporter whether the Greek farmers are cooperating with their Bulgarian colleagues who are also complaining of low prices of their products Tourtouras replied that they are not in contact with each other. "In 2009 or 2010 a group of farmers from Bulgaria visited us at the blockade, which we had organized. Unfortunately, we have had no contacts since then, although this would benefit us all. The common agricultural policy of the European Union is equally ruinous to farmers in all countries and it would be great if we could coordinate with each other to counter it."

He however said that the farmers in the region of Serres do not intend to block the road to and from the Promahonas - Kulata border crossing with the words, "At this stage such actions would be useless."

Tags: PoliticsFarmersProtestsRoadblocksTaxationcommon agricultural policy
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