July 21, 2011

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Taxi strikers continue with strike, this time they block ports and airports

Taxi in GreekImage by MPD01605

Taxi drivers, fighting deregulation in their industry (one of 135 professions targeted by Greece to meet EU and IMF bailout conditions), disrupted tourists for the fourth day, as EU leaders gathered in Brussels for a summit on the debt crisis.

In Crete, a top tourist destination, about 200 taxis blocked access to ports and the airport, a police official said. Passengers had to walk about 400 metres to get to their buses. Taxis also blocked the port in Corfu, forcing passengers to walk hundreds of metres to reach buses. "They won't let buses pick up passengers," said a coast guard official.

The EU and the IMF have made liberalisation of Greece's closed professions a condition of a 110 billion euro bailout that saved it from bankruptcy in May last year. In practice, the opening up of sectors such as pharmacy, tourism and law has so far been limited, with the government bowing to union demands to keep regulations in place.

Meanwhile, Main opposition New Democracy (ND) party on appealed to the striking taxi owners to refrain from blocking access to airports, seaports or national motorways while, at the same time, lashing out again at the government and the relevant minister in particular.

ND spokesman Yiannis Mihelakis underlined that Minister Yiannis Ragoussis is "trapped in a personal (political) vendetta with his predecessor Dimitris Reppas, whereas the former's actions are a "proof of the insolvency" of the government, one that "lacks coordination and has no plan". Mihelakis accused Ragoussis of causing social confrontations, and of being indifferent to the serious economic consequences and damage caused to the tourism sector.

Tourism makes up 16 percent of Greece's GDP and the government had projected a 10 percent hike in tourism revenues after two years marred by anti-austerity strikes and protests. Tourism industry officials said bookings have so far not been affected by the taxi strike but it may hurt the sector in the long run, along with other protests and industrial action.

(Combined Reports - ANA)
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