Athens, January 29, 2016/Independent Balkan News Agency
By Spiros Sideris
A crowd of farmers gathered outside in the famer’s exhibition «Agrotica 2016» in Thessaloniki. According to estimates there were 15-20 thousand demonstrators.
The scheduled for the evening at 19:00 opening of the exhibition by Rural Development minister Vangelis Apostolou were canceled for fear of episodes. The decision was taken at a meeting held in the presence of the Mayor of Thessaloniki Yiannis Boutari, President of Helexpo, Tassos Tzikas and the Police Division of Thessaloniki.
However, a group of farmers gathered outside the “Vellidio” conference center and tried to enter the building, as they believed that the minister was in the building. Tensions rose and police forces resorted to chemicals to repel the protesters.
The streets around the Helexpo were closed from early noon, both by the protestors and the tractors the farmers had lined on the road. In YMCA square was placed a platform where representatives of organizations that organized the rally sent a greeting to the crowd.
Christos Gontias, from the Panhellenic Coordinating Committee of Farmers and Breeders said that “today we are the one inaugurating the exhibition, farmers, ranchers and fishermen. We will win, we won’t back down”.
Minister of Agricultural Development sees the opposition behind the incidents in Thessaloniki
The incidents that took place in Thessaloniki and “forced” the cancelation of the opening of the exhibition “AGROTICA”, after the “blockade” of farmers to the minister of Agricultural Development, commented the minister himself Vangelis Apostolou. Speaking of “provocative forces of the right and the extreme right”, the minister expressed his belief that yesterday’s events, the blockage of Thessaloniki and the blocking of the opening of AGROTICA, a celebration for the city and the agricultural world, do not express the majority of the farmers.
He calls once again the farmers to dialogue, while he stresses that “everyone must now take a clear position against such behaviours and to assume their responsibilities: the parties, the institutional bodies, the social partners”.
The blockade of Tempe decides escalation of struggle
The blockade of Tempe, at a general meeting held on Wednesday night, decided not to go to Thessaloniki, without precluding the participation of individual farmers, but to escalate the struggle with a five hours blockage of the valley of Tempe from 4pm to 9 pm.
In addition, the blockade of Tempe discusses the possibility to call on Saturday the representatives of farmers from all over Greece to Tempe to decide the final coordination of protests to come.
For their part, farmers of the blockade of Nice who also met on Wednesday, have decided starting Friday afternoon to organize a great solidarity gathering, with the participation of social and productive institutions in the Central Square of Larissa, with the symbolic presence of tractors, while they are preparing for a strong participation in the general strike of February 4.
Queues at Promachonas customs office
The voices for the escalation of mobilisations are starting to increase, while the farmers of Promachonas, who are keeping the firmest stance so far, have shutdown the customs office area indefinitely, resulting in a truck queue several kilometers long.
Shutdown of Kipi customs office
Yesterday, there was a new closing down of the Kipi customs office from 12 to 2 pm, followed by a second exclusion from 6 to 9 pm. Farmers appear determined to increase the hours of blockage, while on Sunday there is the possibility to ask for the involvement of farmers from Didymoteicho and Rhodopes, in order to achieve a 24-hour shutdown of Kipi customs.
Blocking and Athens
At the same time, the struggle joined the farmers of Attica.
More than 200 agricultural machinery have been fielded since Wednesday night on either side of the Vari-Koropi avenue, as well as at the intersection with the Attiki Odos that leads to the airport.