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All Greece under yellow blockade

01 August 2011 / 16:08:58  GRReporter
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Anastasia Balezdrova 

From today, taxi owners in Greece increased their protests, just as decided at yesterday's meeting of the PanHellenic union. 

Exactly at 10:00 in the morning taxi owners in the capital, gathered outside the Ministry of Transport. Their chairman Evtimios Limberopoulos and other members of the union met with Minister Yannis Ragousis but the meeting led to no result. After arguing that the only thing that brings some hope is the possibility to set a number of taxis according to the number of inhabitants of each city, the yellow car owners decided to stay and protest in front of the institution over the next two days in shifts. Then without warning they held a symbolic blockade of Mesogion Avenue in both directions, shouting the slogan "Hands off taxis." 

From early morning their colleagues from Patras blocked the bridge that connects western Peloponnese with mainland Greece, and the toll booths in Rio. Movement of vehicles is carried out along the old road Patras - Corinth, and taxi owners threaten to continue with their protest indefinitely. The situation about the length of each blockade is unclear, as participants make their decisions on the spot. An hour ago the queue of cars in the traffic was more than 25 kilometers long. 

Meanwhile in the city of Heraklion in Crete there were clashes between taxi owners and local police, because they had blocked the roads leading to the airport. Taxi drivers had blocked the three main streets leading to the airport and greatly impeded the access of local residents and foreign tourists to it, although their initial decision was to protest in front of the archaeological site of Knossos. 

Tension began when taxi drivers at the airport saw the approaching buses, which arrived to transport the tourists. Indicative of the situation is the fact that dozens of scheduled flights arrived in the airport of Heraklion but it is now expecting another 76 charter flights carrying thousands of tourists. Earlier, some of them took off walking to their hotels. 

According to local media atmosphere in Crete was intense from the morning. The taxi owners were equipped with home-made "weapons" and bars and were ready to attack in case of a police operation against the blockade. 

Police seized two participants in the clashes. Parallel to this continuing is the blockade of the District Administration of the island's Elefteria Square in Heraklion. 

In Thessaloniki, taxi owners held a procession in the city center and later they are expected to pass with their cars through Egnatia Street. Their colleagues from Halkidiki have parked on the road junction to Moudania, but are not hindering with traffic.

The situation is similar in of the largest Greek islands, Samos and Corfu, where taxi owners have occupied for a second consecutive day the local Tax Offices. In Corfu taxis blocked the entrance to the harbor and airport on the island. Meanwhile in front of the airport police seized three drivers of "pirate" taxis who transported tourists to various places on the island for a higher fee. 

Occupation of the tax offices did also their colleagues in Kalamata. Tomorrow, all taxi owners from the Peloponnese will meet in Tripoli and will attempt to meet with the secretary of the local district authorities. 

With the apparent reluctance of the government to solve the ongoing strike, which now continues for a third week, Greek hoteliers have decided to take matters into their own hands. The management of their federation announced that with the help of legal counsel they have prepared a lawsuit and have sent it out to all local hotel associations in the country, and they in turn will present it to the prosecutor when witnessing illegal activities. 

According to hoteliers, what Greek and foreign visitors are subjecting themselves to in Greece are "shameful and disgraceful pictures which are completely unacceptable for a country that wants to base a large part of its economy on tourism, to create and retain thousands of jobs (including in the field of taxi services) and promote its quality services and infrastructure." 

With blockades happening all over Greece the government decided to respond with measures that anyway were announced last week by the Athens District Attorney. Shortly after his meeting today with representatives of taxi owners the Transport Minister Yannis Ragousis issued circular to all governors in the country. The text indicates legal regulations under which local authorities are obliged to seize the license and registration numbers of taxis, whose owners participate in the blockades. 

Despite accusations that they only watch their own interests, without prejudice to the consequences of their protests on tourism of the country last night taxi owners showed a completely different attitude. Some of them turned to the ancient theater of Epidaurus, where the play "Richard III" was taking place and which is the most important cultural event of this year's summer season. The taxi owners, some of whom were dressed in black, while others wore black bands on their sleeves did not justify the expectations that they might interfere with the course of the play and limited their protest in a quiet presence and distribution of leaflets. 

Tags: Greece blockades protests taxi cab
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