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The border with Bulgaria is open but farmers are determined to protest

11 February 2011 / 14:02:00  GRReporter
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"No" to "arbitrary acts" said Agriculture Minister Costas Skandalidis and emphasized that farmers in Greece could not close the borders.

The Minister's statements were provoked by the opinion of the Communist Party deputy who described the government attitude to farmers’ protest as “autarchic”.

The main reason, however, lies in the decision of the police commander of Ceres Dimitris Tsiotas to prohibit public gatherings, movement and stopping of agricultural machinery in certain sections of the road network in the area, which sparked heated debate in the Greek Parliament.

The police commander issued the controversial order last Sunday, a day before the announced by local farmers protest actions, including the closure of the Greek-Bulgarian border.

However, farmers held a rally to Promahonas. Tensions led to clashes with police forces deployed there resulting in the capture of seven farmers and charging them of traffic hampering.  

"It is not possible to close the road that connects the country with another country in the name of an extreme claim. The borders of our country should not be closed no matter how much strained the actions of police authorities have been," said the Agriculture Minister.

The Communist Party deputy who had asked the parliamentary question to the Minister of Agriculture accused the government in an attempt to intimidate medium farmers and criminalize their protests. Equally denouncing was the statement of the far-right party LAOS deputy that “in perfect contrast to the excellent police attitude to illegal immigrants, it treats farmers as second class citizens.”

The heated debate in parliament began yesterday when the parliamentary group of New Democracy called for the resignation of the Minister of Citizens Protection Christos Papoutsis.

“You should resign, Minister! You have elicited reactions and put the society against the state. Our request may seem of no importance, but we declare that it is very important," said the parliamentary representative of the main opposition party Costas Markopoulos to be replied by the Minister that he should demand a confidence vote against him. Nothing of this  happened.

The police commander said he had issued the order in view of the fact that farmers planned to block the border which would lead to serious problems especially for Bulgaria.

Opposition parties and a number of media focused their attacks on that part of the order prohibiting all public gatherings, even attempts to carry out any procession. According to a left coalition SYRIZA’s deputy, Greece had not seen “such a law since 1974,” i.e. the years of military dictatorship.

Commander Tsiotas, in turn, said he had informed all parties of his decision. They stressed from the Ministry for Citizens Protection that the constitution empowered the police commander to impose such a ban when considered necessary.

The order was renewed since the first was valid until today. It is based on public security and social and economic life disturbances.

However, the farmers from Serres did not give up their protests. Tomorrow they will appear in court to attend the trial against the 7 captured colleagues. A delegation of farmers from Larissa who are in Ceres since yesterday will join them. After the end of the trial farmers plan to hold a meeting to decide on how to continue their protests.

Meanwhile, the farmers from Larissa announced they would postpone their protests following the decision of the organizing committee. They are expected to be resumed especially on the eve of the 101st anniversary of the farmers’ revolt in the village of Kileler on March 6.

Tags: SocietyProtestsFarmersBorderBulgaria
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