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The head of the striking taxi owners association (Sata), Thymios Lymberopoulos, today requested a meeting between taxi owners and Prime Minister George Papandreou so that they could “clear up misunderstandings and go back to work” He made the statement after a meeting with the leadership of GSEBEE, the Greek confederation of traders, workshop owners and freelance workers.
Following the statement, GSEBEE President Dimitris Assimakopoulos said the government’s failure to uphold a previous agreement reached with taxi owners, which called for a transitional period leading up to full liberalisation of the taxi services sector, was a “grave political misstep”.
Lymberopoulos reiterated that taxi owners wanted the same regime that applied in Europe for taxis to also apply in Greece, where licences were issued on the basis “of rules, a framework and a time schedule”.
Concerning the various protest actions by taxi owners throughout the country, such as blocking access to ports and airports or preventing use of major highways, he stressed that these were “spontaneous” and not centrally organised by Sata. He then called on the new Infrastructure, Transport and Networks Minister Yiannis Ragousis to “adapt to European standards” and stressed that the current ratio of one taxi per 1,000 residents of Greece was the highest in the EU.
Assimakopoulos was strongly critical of the government’s handling of the issue, accusing the government of behaving like an “Oriental bazaar” and of lacking a uniform voice, while backing the demands of taxi owners as just. At the same time, he appealed to taxi owners to be careful in the chosen forms of protest so as not to inflict damage on other economic sectors and their own clients, stressing that “no struggle has been work without society as an ally”.
Meanwhile, mobilisations of taxi owners continued across the country after their decision to extend their strike indefinitely, against the sector’s deregulation. Taxi owners periodically blocked access to several national motorways, airports and ports throughout Greece.
Meanwhile, the passenger ferries association addressed a letter to the ministers of citizen protection, competitiveness and tourism, calling for the adoption of necessary measures and the implementation of the law as a response to the transportation problems created that affect thousands of tourists.
On its part the Hellenic Chamber of Hotels, in a letter to the culture and tourism minister, called for a crisis management ministerial committee meeting to adopt coordinated action in handling the taxi owners’ actions.
Moreover, a statement by the Exporters’ Association of Northern Greece (Seve) underlined that the extreme forms of protest, such as the taxi owners’ strike, further downgrade Greece’s image abroad and cancel out the efforts made by healthy enterprises in the country to reverse the negative international atmosphere.
Finally the Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises (Sete) requested the intervention of Supreme Court prosecutor Ioannis Tentes to put an end to the blockade of airports, seaports, motorways, public buildings etc by striking taxi owners. Sete underlined that the strike, aside from the inconvenience of citizens and foreign visitors, defames Greece abroad.
Already, local prosecutors in Athens and other major cities have launched ex officio preliminary investigations to determine whether the crimes of transportation obstruction and passenger travel disruption were committed. Case files have been put together and prosecutors do not rule out confiscation of taxicabs if strikers continue the blockade action.