Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Greek Farmers Blockade Continues To Handicap Freight Movements

Worst Expected to Follow
Shipping News Feature

GREECE – Blockade actions by Greece’s farmers against freight vehicles have entered their third week and continue to greatly hamper truck movements both across the country’s borders and on its internal highway network, causing the Greek governments plans for austerity measures to be plunged into uncertainty.

At the moment we have reports of continued blockades on the main roads into Piraeus from the north at Thivai, blocks on the only land route into the Peloponnese at Corinth and the roads into Salonika.

In addition, according to the Bulgarian media the Greek Border police are to come out on strike in sympathy with the farmers which will see all border crossings closed on the 4th and 5th of February.

Already several hundred trucks are queued at the Bulgarian crossing points, prevented from entering Greece by the farmers’ blockade.

The farmers actions are in response to proposals to cut the amount of subsidies they receive, subsidies that the farmers’ state are necessary to the survival of the farming industry in Greece. Their blockade is estimated to be costing the country an estimated 25 million euros a day and has caused both relations with Bulgaria to deteriorate and to place massive pressure on the Greek government’s requirements to radically cut their spending deficit.

Greece's current budget deficit of 12.7% of gross domestic product is more than four times higher than euro zone rules allow and in order to reduce this to its stated aim of 2.8% by 2012 the Prime Minister, George Papandreou, yesterday announced a series of tough austerity measures, including a public sector pay freeze, undoubtedly the factor that has caused the strike decision of the Border Police.

With mounting pressure on the government, including the country’s membership in the EU at stake, it seems likely that this situation will not be resolved anytime soon and looks likely to continue to escalate, with disruption to freight shipping likely to become more virulent in the near future.