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Taxi owners threaten the lawmakers who do not support them

13 September 2011 / 21:09:55  GRReporter
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Anastasia Balezdrova

Thousands of taxi owners from all over Greece gathered in Athens to protest outside the Parliament against the liberalization of their occupation. The trade union chose to organize the rally on the day when the Minister of Transport Yannis Ragousis informed the PASOK MPs on the final regulations in the bill.

The taxi owners carrying out a 48-hour strike from Monday gathered outside the offices of the trade union in the centre of Athens and took to Syntagma Square. Some had slogans opposing the government and the Minister and others demonstrated on motorcycles and waved the national flag or just flags with the symbols of taxi companies.

Their arrival at the Parliament was very noisy and violent. Taxi owners from Athens, Thessaloniki, Lamia, Kozani, Katerini, Patras, Nauplion and many other areas in Greece were present.

"Today, the square will sink from the biggest rally held on it ever," said the President of the Athens union Evtimios Limberopoulos and cheered up the protesters.

Taxi owners from Patras brought a coffin on the cover of which were the pictures of Prime Minister George Papandreou and Minister of Transport Yannis Ragousis. They tried to bring it to the monument of the Unknown Soldier, but unionists, who had the task not to allow their colleagues to cause police intervention, prevented them from doing it.

In his speech, which lasted about an hour, Euthymios Limberopoulos resembled the PASOK government to the junta and said that taxi owners will stop the payments to insurance funds and banks.

"If they come to confiscate our homes, we will burn them," he said and warned lawmakers that if they vote the law they will become targets, but did not specify of what kind of attacks.

The protesting taxi owners interrupted the trade union leader's speech with slogans against the minister and the government and particularly cynical expressions were not missing either. They declared themselves against specific media, which according to them "are acting provocatively against our fair demands."

The rally was peaceful despite the attempts by some taxi drivers to protest more vigorously. Some set fire to the coffin and there was a commotion for a moment, but they themselves extinguished the flames quickly.

Tens of policemen were deployed around the Parliament and the fence known from the protests in June was stretched along Vasilisis Sofias Avenue.

Meanwhile, Minister Yannis Ragousis announced the full liberalization of public transport. He informed his colleagues in Parliament that the bill includes regulations for the exemptions from restrictions on road transport too, stressing that "the liberalization will be full, direct and under rules that will not allow the formation of cartels."

Yannis Ragousis stressed the need for reforms such as eliminating the black market licenses. According to him, around 35,000 licenses have been transferred only in the last ten years and their sales were worth € 5 million of which the state has not received anything. He also referred to new types of fees that could create new jobs.

The protest of taxi owners continued into the night without making it clear whether they intend to go on strike in the coming days too.

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