Farmers have decided to block the "dialogue on farming" inaugurated at the Presidential Mansion in Athens by the government, and intensify their struggle.
The government was hoping that at the last minute the farmers would desert their blockades and seek refuge from the snow to the warm hug of the Presidential Mansion (Zappeio) in Athens where the Ministry of Agriculture has set up a "circus of dialogue" (in the words of the farmers). Yet, at the time that only a handful of PASOK controlled syndicalists were engaging in humiliating negotiations in Athens, the farmers, having disavowed their official reps as "irrelevant", performed an exhibition of their strength, by staging what they called "a general rehearsal" of total blockade.
The "rehearsal" included bringing all national traffic north of Athens to a standstill, while also cutting off the politically sensitive Bulgarian border crossings, and even the international railway from Salonica to Sofia. At several blockades the farmers distributed free products engaging in dialogue with the immobilised drivers, explaining to them the difference between the price they get for a liter of milk and the price the drivers pay for it in the supermarket, an amazing 1200% (a thousand and two hundred percent ) difference. During the "rehearsal", farmers blocked not only the main south-north and east-west national highways but also the majority of side-streets thus causing a near complete standstill.
Nevertheless the government seems reluctant to repress the mobilisations, with the otherwise hawkish Minister of Public Order declaring that "the government insists on dialogue". A repression of the late 1990s kind (tearing the tractor tires and sabotaging of machinery by the special forces) is almost certain to create long and violent reaction on the farmers side; a symbolically harmful occasion due to the 100 years anniversary of the Kileler Uprising which abolished serfdom in Thessaly. The Uprising is officially celebrated by PASOK (its actually a symbol of its socialism), and the absence of the PM at the 100th celebrtation in early March would mark an very visible defeat of PASOK on the front of the "farming issue".
The next moves of the farmers are expected with interest, as the "circus of a dialogue" enters its second day on Tuesday. It is expected that today the farmers will move their tractors on the railway lines connecting Athens with the North, as well as re-engage in extensive blocking of the national highway system. The blockade of the port of Igoumenitsa continues, while farmers from the Messinia made their first move to join the struggle by driving their tractors to the main square of Kalamata, blockading the main Agricultural Bank premises of the province. It is estimated that the farmers' mobilisation is costing the greek state 200 million Euros this far.