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Antenna: News in English, 96-12-09

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From: Antenna Radio <> - email:

News in English, of 09/12/1996


  • A standoff between farmers and the government brings transportation to a halt.
  • Heavy rains and flooding bring death and destruction.
  • And, the prime minister rules out dialogue with Turkey.


The government got its first tough reply to its tough 1997 budget this week. Around the country, farmers extended the roadblocks on major arteries and even secondary roads.

What they're asking for is changes in government policies that will lower their production costs, and raise their standard of living.

It was hard to get from town to town as the week started, and it got even harder as the week wore on.

Farmers' anger mushroomed, as did the roadblocks which were started by cotton farmers in Thessaly last week. Around the clock, it was impossible or extremely difficult for people to get anywhere by road. Even in and out of the country.

Air travel was difficult in Thessaloniki. Roadblocks near its airport meant travellers had to leg it past the pickets and catch a cab on the other side to get to their planes.

The seaways were no alternative for moving merchandise in and out of Volos and Thessaloniki. A dockworkers' strike over pay had Volos completely closed down, and it was difficult loading and unloading freight in Thessaloniki.

The roadblocks meant that trucks were unable to get their goods to their destinations. By the end of the week, some businesses in areas under the transport siege were forced to shut down temporarily. Others worried that they wouldn't be able to make their Christmas payrolls if the roads didn't open up soon.

Whether they're cotton farmers in central Greece, raisin producers in the Peloponese, or tobacco growers in west-central Greece, the demands are the same.

The farmers want a tax break on fuel, gentler repayment terms on state bank loans, and higher prices on their state-subsidised crops.

What they've wanted for several years. The agriculture minister met with protestors reps in Larisa Wednesday night, offering them considerably less than what they're asking for.

They rejected his offer, saying they'll stay camped out on the highways until Easter if need be.

Still, the government refused to soften. On Thursday, the prime minister appealed to the

farmers to pack up and go home, telling them they were acting against the will of the nation. They are asking for too much, he added, and the budget can't meet their demands.

Kostas Simitis said that government was elected by the people to run the country, and has the right to run the country. All working people are suffering from the roadblocks, he told them, because a few people think they can blackmail the state into giving them what they want. But that isn't so, he said.

It was a message Simitis repeated in parliament on Friday, where he came under heavy fire from the opposition. New Democracy leader Miltiades Evert accused him of being arrogant and rejecting dialogue. "The protestors aren't just groups," said Evert, "all the farmers are out on the roads. You're trying to set one group in society against another. It's the worst thing a prime minister could do".

Simitis urged the farmers to end their disruptive protests, and sit down to talk with the government. During the week, he sent people to try to convince Pasok voters to leave the roadblocks.

But Pasok supporters were unmoved. They insisted, "This is not a party thing, its economics". One man said, I voted for Simitis to help us".

Simitis did NOT offer to sit down with the farmers himself, which is what the farmers wanted. So, they decided to keep sitting where they had been, on the roads.


As we heard there, as the week wore on, the effects of the traffic halt slowly made themselves felt, in some places more than in others.

There were no shortages of foodstuffs in Athens, though by week's end, fruit and vegetable sellers said another ten days of roadblocks and there would be.

But elsewhere, problems manifested themselves. The two hospitals in Iannena were running short of some medical supplies, and patients were finding it difficult to get into the city for operations.

Larisa was facing shortages by the end of the week, and businessmen appealed to government and the farmers to work things out. Many businesses had shut down, and many more said they were about to, unable to work because of the roadblocks.

There were concerns that many workers in areas hit hard by the roadblocks wouldn't be paid in time for Christmas, as the tills in many businesses were empty.

The mayor of Larisa, the economy of which was on the point of collapse, said enough is enough. Larisa gets hit by farmers roadlocks every years.


Just because a road wasn't closd by the farmers, it DOESN'T mean it was open. Severe flooding followed heavy rains that started last weekend, soaking thousands of lives in sorrow and hardship.

Four people drowned in the flood waters, and many homes were completely wrecked.

Four people died in the flooding that began last Saturday, including a man and his teenage daughter, buried Monday. The bridge they were driving over gave out as the raging water rushed under it.

They were buried Monday, as was a third man, who'd been carried to his death in the floodwaters. A fourth fatality, a man missing since Saturday, was found Monday.

The areas hit were around the cities of Xanthi in the north, and Arta in the west.

Village residents spent fear-filled nights, anticipating the worst, that some river would spill over, a dam would give way, and they would be up to their knees in muddy water.

In between storm alerts, victims took in the damage. Looking over the destruction in his house, one man said, "Everything's fit for the trash".

People lost everything from beds to stoves to refrigerators.

And outside, it was no better, as people lost livestock and farmers, their crops.

Hundreds of acres of crops were destroyed in the Arta area. One man lost his orange trees.

The government responded immediately, issuing victims with 800 dollars in emergency relief money. And crews were out clearing away the mud, assessing the damage. Red cross tents were set up with the help of local authorities, making sure that residents got first aid any other medical attention they needed.

By Thursday, the weather had cleared up in most places. Only in Evros in northeastern Greece were people concerned by a river that had burst its banks and damaged hundreds of cultivated acres.

What was left for the victims was to clean up. One man said he'd managed to get all the mud out of his house, and life goes on.

In one village, women shovelled for days to clear out a basement apartment.

Thousands of people had their problems.

Much of the damage was done to roads. Several villages were left cut off for several days. The most dramatic example was the case of a road that had simply collapsed for a length of 200 metres. The mail man called the village residents with his horn from one side of the damage. They approached from the other side. He was bringing retirees their pension payments. Many roads won't be back in service until the spring.

The flood victims will need all the assistance they can get in the meantime, and perhaps long after.

For the loved ones of those who died in the disaster, there are wounds that will never heal.


Prime minister Kostas Simitis said this week that it is up to Turkey to make the first move toward better relations with Greece.

Mr Simitis spoke briefly with the Turkish president on the sidelines of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation conference in Lisbon.

The Greek leader attached little importance to the informal chat, and said they did not discuss any issues of substance. He added that there is no prospect of bilateral dialogue in the near future.

Greece was stung by Turkey's attempt to use its military muscle to get hold of the Greek isle of Imia in January.

Hellenism was also stung by the murder of three men at the hands of Turkish troops and nationalists in Cyprus this year.

In Lisbon, Mr Simitis said that talks ARE underway to impose a moratorium on Greek and Turkish military flights over Cyprus.

In Portugal, the Greek leader also met with the Albanian president, an noted that relations between their two countries are improving all the time.

And Mr Simitis had a brief talk with the president of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macdonia. They did not discuss the issue of Fyrom's name.


The most beautiful girl in the world is, well, MISS World, Irini Skliva.

Antenna and Nikos Mastorakis recently caught up to the stunning 18-year-old who was crowned Miss World in India a few weeks ago.

With Irini was her adoring mother, who said her daughter has a heart of gold to match her endearing smile.

"When she was a girl, she used to make us our morning coffee before going to school", she recalled.

Asked if she would do the same for her husband, Irini responded with a laugh.

Irini Skliva's star may be rising in the 1990s, but she misses the 1960s.

"People enjoyed themselves differently then", she says. "Nowadays we just go to crowded clubs and hold our drinks. Nobody dances".

She may not like the modern scene, but she says today's kids are alright. Older people often say today's youths have no goals or dreams.

But Irini says they have both. She says adults should get closer to their kids, and think about what THEY want.

© ANT1-Radio 1996

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