Greek taxi drivers step up strike, block traffic



Taxi drivers blocked major roads across Greece on Monday, stepping up protests against EU/IMF-inspired reforms to their trade and disrupting tourism at the height of the summer season.
The protesters, who have been on strike for two weeks, oppose government plans to issue new taxi licenses, as part of the cash-strapped country’s efforts to revive its ailing economy by liberalizing restricted business sectors. Removing restrictions hampering access to so-called “closed professions”, including engineering and law, is a key condition for debt-laden Greece to continue receiving bailout funds from the EU and the International Monetary Fund.
Taxi owners occupied the country’s longest suspension bridge at Rio in western Greece and blocked the Athens-Patras highway, also in the west. “I don’t know how long it will last,” taxi owner Panagiotis Skentzos said on television station Skai. Others blocked access roads to the Herakleion airport at the resort island of Crete, forcing tourists to walk 500 meters with their luggage to get on buses and other transport. On Sunday, taxi owners prevented 1,600 cruise passengers from visiting the famous archaeological site of Knossos in Crete, a move local media said they might repeat on Monday. The Greek hoteliers association said the strike was seriously hurting tourism — Greece’s main industry — and efforts to revive the recession-hit economy, criticizing the government for failing to quell the protests.

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