Greek farmers mull escalating road blockades against pension reform

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Greek farmers unions convened in the city of Larissa in central Greece on Sunday and voted for the escalation of nationwide blockades this week against the government's plans for a pension reform.

More than 15,000 protesters who have been on the streets from mid-January also decided to take their fight to Athens, calling for a rally in front of the parliament on Friday.

The farmers intend to set off in tractors and coaches for the capital and "camp" in Syntagma Square for at least two days, according to Greek national news agency AMNA.

Meanwhile, they will step up pressure on the government to withdraw a bill that foresees the raise of their contributions to social security funds and tax hikes by extending the length of road blocks in key national highway junctions and border crossings.

During the weekend, Greece was cut in half, as protesters sealed for 24 hours from Saturday afternoon to Sunday afternoon the national highway connecting Athens to Thessaloniki in northern Greece at the Valley of Tempi, forcing motorists to resort to lengthy detours.

Farmers have also escalated their protest actions at border crossings between Greece and Bulgaria and Greece and Turkey by closing customs offices and traffic for several hours each day, causing long queues of cars and trucks of up to 20 km.

The protesters request tax-free diesel and abolition of VAT on farming equipment, the settlement of overdue loans to avoid home foreclosures and dialogue from scratch with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on the pension system reform and taxation.

The farmers' mobilization is part of a wider range of strikes and protests by various trade unions and professionals in recent weeks who all oppose the government's proposals for pension system reform. Endit

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