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Greek farmers clash with police as pensions protests intensify

Friday, February 12, 2016 11:54
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Greek farmers clash with police as pensions protests intensify

 

Greek farmers clash with police as pensions protests intensify. Scores of Greek farmers protesting against planned increases in taxes and pension contributions on Friday clashed with riot police as three weeks of nationwide protests by producers climaxed with demonstrations across the centre of Athens. Riot police used tear gas to disperse protesters pelting the agriculture ministry building with stones and bottles. Earlier, police blocked a group of farmers from Crete from emptying a truckload of tomatoes in a neighbouring square. More than 30,000 farmers were due to gather in Syntagma square outside parliament on Friday evening for a protest followed by a 48-hour sit-in, an agricultural union spokesman said. Farmers have been the most vocal critics of the Syriza-led government’s scheme to rescue the state pension system from collapse by sharply increasing contributions from private sector workers. They have used tractors to block the country’s main north-south highway and border crossings with Albania, Turkey and Bulgaria, prompting complaints by Greek exporters and a protest to the European Commission by the Sofia government. Farmers say they would be harder hit than other self-employed workers — including doctors in private practice, engineers and lawyers — as the government has already agreed to increase taxes for agricultural producers as part of Greece’s latest international bailout. “We’re already facing big tax hikes on inputs and a doubling of income tax for farmers,” said Manolis Paterakis, a Cretan producer taking part in the protests. “The pension demands are over the top.” The government has offered to hold talks with farmers’ unions but only if they drop demands for a renegotiation from scratch of the agricultural pension system. Alexis Tsipras, the prime minister, warned this week that pension reforms were “not optional but necessary to ensure the social insurance system has a future”.

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