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Greek Truck Drivers Strike as EU, IMF Begins Loan Inspection in Athens
Greek truck drivers went on an indefinite strike today over plans to open up their sector to new licenses.
“We will walk out from Sunday midnight,” Giorgos Tsamos, the head of the country’s federation of tanker-trucks, told Mega TV yesterday. “We will take this to the end.”
The protest, which centers on government plans to issue new trucking licenses, may cause shortages of fuel and goods, particularly on the Greek islands, if the walkout lasts for days. The changes are part of the requirements of a 110 billion-euro ($143 billion) loan package as European Union and International Monetary Fund officials begin checks on Greece’s progress with the program.
Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou, who has cut wages and pensions and raised taxes to meet conditions to receive the EU-IMF loans, said earlier this month the government had met the targets that would secure a second payment of 9 billion euros by September. The team of officials, which include representatives from the European Central Bank, are examining progress up to June 30.
“These goals have been achieved and we have moved a step further with the passage of the pension reform,” Papaconstantinou said in an interview with the newspaper Kosmos tou Ependiti, according to an emailed transcript from the ministry. “There’s a clear timetable which we will stick to so that none of the next 12 loan installments are endangered.”
Key measures to be completed by the end of the year include opening up closed professions, which include truckers, pharmacists and architects, an overhaul of the health system and the implementation of a restructuring plan for unprofitable Hellenic Railways Organization SA.
The IMF said July 16 that while Greece’s state budget- reduction program is on track, sectors affecting the general government balance, such as hospitals and social security funds, “present clear risks, as do financial pressures in public enterprises” and require more attention.
Greece aims to reduce its deficit from 13.6 percent of gross domestic product last year to within the EU’s 3 percent limit in 2014. The Finance Ministry said last week that the deficit shrank 45 percent in the first half of the year.