Δευτέρα, 1 Αυγούστου 2011

Greek Taxi Owners Stage New, Nationwide Protests Over Reforms


ATHENS (Dow Jones)--Taxi owners Monday closed off access to one of Greece's key airports and blocked traffic on a central national highway, cutting the country in half.
The action came after the latest meeting with the government failed to resolve a dispute over proposed 
reforms in the sector.
The protests, now entering their third week, come after taxi owners met with Transport Minister Giannis 
Ragkousis to try to forge a compromise over government plans to open up the industry.
"Patience in the sector has been exhausted. The situation is out of control. If there are damages, we 
won't be to blame," Thimios Lymberopoulos, president of the Panhellenic Taxi Association, told 
reporters.
In Crete, outside the main airport of Iraklion, hundreds of taxi owners blockaded buses from entering
 the airport to service arriving and departing passengers. According to Greek media reports, scuffles 
broke out between police and protesters at the airport, prompting authorities to use tear gas.
Because of the blockade, passengers were forced to lug their suitcases some 500 meters in order to 
reach their flights on time, after being dropped off on roads surrounding the airport.
In central Greece, protesters blocked off a national highway leading to the Rio-Antirio bridge, a key 
transport link, connecting southern and central Greece.
While in Athens, about one thousand taxi owners also blocked off a main avenue close to the Transport 
Ministry, causing traffic disruptions.
Ragkousis, who met with taxi owners earlier Monday and for the second time in four days, 
threatened to strip owners of their cab licenses if they continue to adopt illegal means of protest action.
Coming at the peak of Greece's all important summer tourism season, the demonstrations have been 
seen as particularly damaging to the country's image with foreign visitors.
"The conditions affecting foreign and Greek visitors at several tourism destinations are scenes of shame 
and degradation--unacceptable for a country that supports a large part of its economy on tourism," the 
Panhellenic Federation of Hoteliers said in a statement.
At issue is a Greek government plan to greatly increase the number of taxi licenses issued, a move 
that the owners say would lower the value In May last year, Greece narrowly avoided default with
 the help of a EUR110 billion bailout from its fellow euro-zone members and the International Monetary

Fund. In exchange for that loan, Greece has promised a series of reforms to cut its budget deficit and 
remake its heavily regulated economy. Among them was a law passed earlier this year to radically
 liberalize some 150 closed-shop professions--ranging from taxi drivers to accountants--sweeping 
away quotas and other restrictions that barred newcomers from entry.

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