After refusal of their demands by the government, the climax of the farmers mobilisation across the country has brought Greece to a standstill. The farmers seem not to fear the legal measures that the judicial authorities are threatening against their action.
Mid-winter farming crises are a common phenomenon in Greece. It is the time for the usually tough-going collective bargain between farmers and the Ministry of Agriculture. In a country that the greatest percentage of farmland is in the lands of small-holders divided by both local special needs and political conviction, this is a typically long and contradictory procedure. Yet this years mobilisation has been marked by a persistence and momentum that has been lacking for more than a decade. Despite the popular facade of the Socialist government fresh in office, the country has come to a standstill with all major highways blocked and farmers from Crete preparing an invasion of Athens itself. A similar attempt last year had led to extended clashes between riot police and tractor-driving Cretans in the port of Peiraeus, resulting to mass civil-service walk-outs and even shop closures in Heraklion. The acute state of the greek economy, the enduring overall social tension and the populist pre-election promises of the government have now created an explosive situation. More analytically:
Farmers mobilisation across the country is reaching a climax after the government announced that the following demands of the farmers cannot be satisfied: The demand for a guaranteed income; the demand for compensation for income losses; the demand for a return of the VAT and the special petrol tax; the demand to abolish the distinction between first and second line farmers. The refusal of the demands has caused an extended internal crisis inside the Socialist cabinet and the party at large.
As a result of the government refusal, the mobilisation of farmers has been extended to the Peloponese and Epirus with crippling blockades of highways and civil services. Farmers are threatening with a closure of the Corinth Isthmus which connects the Peloponese with the rest of the country.
In Thessaly a coordination of right-wing farmers has blockaded all traffic between the plain's major cities while autonomous farmers have been reenforced by socialist union farmers in blockades in the north of the province, the only open route to Salonica due to the landslide that will keep the national highway closed until Easter.
Meanwhile farmers from Roumeli are planning a motorised tractor march to the PM's mansion in north Athens demanding that he keeps his promise of a 1bn Euro fund. The situation is further complicated as Cretan farmers are expected to be arriving at the port of Peiraeus with their tractors tonight, with the intention to march to the Parliament. Cretan farmers have already blockaded all major civil services and tax offices on the island.
On the main front of the struggle, the greek province of Macedonia, farmers who continue to block the Egnatia highway at different spots of its route as well as most major smaller motor-ways, have refused government calls to a dialogue, judging it as a fraud. The north Greece mobilisations have come under the scrutiny of the judicial authorities after farmers moved to block one of the main entrances to Salonica. Nevertheless the government seems reluctant to go for a full persecution of the mobilisations which would be certain to cause a revolt in the countryside. At the same time, Bulgaria has declared that it is taking Greece to court because of the continuing farmers blockades of all major border crosses which have brought Bulgarian trade to a standstill as it interrupts its only access to the Mediterranean.
It is practically impossible to list here all farmers blockades in place at the time of writing, as well as record the different aspects of each local struggle besides their umbrella demands. It is indicative of the disruption caused that courier services from Athens to the north have been completely stopped, while the usually hour and a half drive from Athens to Lamia currently takes more than 6 hours via small mountain roads.
Last, it must be noted that the trial of Alexandros Grigoropoulos assassins has been postponed for Friday, nevertheless schools remained closed in the town of Amfissa where pupils after waiting for the arrival of busloads of anarchists from other cities formed a march despite the draconian police presence and continuing efforts of intimidation in their small town.