ATHENS, Greece — Farmers threatened to block traffic on major roads in Greece on Monday to demand full payment of subsidies they are entitled to and better prices for their produce.
The farmers announced the planned protest Sunday after meeting with a minister in Greece's government, which is trying to pull the country's economy out of its worst debt crisis in decades.
"There is no money (to give) at this point," said Agriculture Minister Katerina Batzeli after the meeting.
The farmers' demands include the immediate payment of subsidies, some of which have been withheld by the European Union pending the completion of a database of all farm holdings. They also want higher support prices for their products.
The government is hosting a two-day meeting starting Monday to discuss issues related to agriculture and farm aid reform.
Representatives of the farmers' main union, PASEGES, plan to attend. But the protesters have called the meeting a "charade" and said they will boycott it while blocking roads in areas such as central Athens, a main north-south highway and a border crossing with Bulgaria.
Last week, the government estimated losses to Greek exporters, including farmers, at €200 million.
Farmers often have blocked roads in Greece in the past 15 years, sometimes forcing governments to provide handouts. Last year, the conservative government appeased protesters with a €500 million aid package.
However, the present socialist government, which gained power in October, has said that Greece's heavy debt burden and big budget deficit make it impossible to provide direct aid to farmers beyond EU-approved subsidies.
The European Union has been pressing its indebted member state to implement a strict austerity plan and plug its deficit, which stands at more than four times the EU limit of 3 percent of GDP. Greece's debt reached 113 percent of annual output for 2009, and is expected to hit 120.4 percent of gross domestic product this year before receding in 2012. (AP)