WTO as seen by the Greeks

Greek peasants are again going to the streets despite the fact that over 10,000 of them have for the last several years been taken to court for taking part in unauthorized demonstrations. Fresh outbreaks of peasants’ discontent started on November 14th in the city of Kardica, where a big rally took place. All the city roads were blocked by over 3,500 tractors. Mr. Tegos, the city’s mayor and Mr. Anagnostopoulos, the regional governor, showed support for the demonstrators. The peasants warmly welcomed Mr. Butas, the chairman of the United Federation of the Peasants’ Unions of Kardica. The rally was attended by an impressive delegation of Greece’s Communist Party, which is headed by Mr. Striphtaris. The peasants protested against the government’s and the European Union’s anti-agrarian policies.

The EU is known to set quotas for nearly all the agricultural commodities. This means that each EU member country is only allowed to produce part (quota) of each commodity produced in all EU member countries. At present, cotton and tobacco are the most “hurt” due to this policy.

As for cotton, Greek is allowed to produce no more than 782,000 tons per year, in spite of the fact that the EU itself satisfies its demand for cotton only by 30% and buys cotton from other countries within the frame work of WTO. If the Greek peasants produce more cotton than allowed, they will be levied with the so-called “compliance tax,” so the farms, especially medium-sized and small farms, become begin to loose money or even go bankrupt.

Greece’s social-democratic government came up against the peasants and accused the opposition of instigating the peasants’ unrest. The New Democracy, which is largest opposition party, expresses its sympathy for the peasants, but warns against “acute forms of the struggle.” At the same time, the Greek Communist Party heavily advocates the peasants’ protests that are spreading throughout the country.

Aleka Papariga, the Communist Party central committee’s secretary general, visited the country’s agricultural regions a week ago and addressed rallies in the cities of Larisa and Kadrica. At present, she is campaigning in the Kephalonia Island. “The struggle is going to be complex and long-lasting, and the problems facing the peasants cannot be solved by just attending rallies,” she was quoted as saying at one of the rallies. Here, we are dealing with the reverse of the WTO, where everything seems perfect at first sight. Speaking of Russian agriculture, it should be noted that it has always been loss-making. Now, should it be squeezed by the quotas, it would wither altogether. At that, this sector is not the most neglected in Russia. Take, for example, the year’s harvest – we have grown it successfully enough, but we do not know yet what is to be done with it. What side should the poor peasant take?

It is high time to realize that WTO is no heavenly manna. Rather, everything is proving to be more prosaic and trivial. For them, Russia is a promising market so they can raise their living standard even further. But why on earth should we help them live better, ignoring our own needs and interests?

Dmitri Litvinovich PRAVDA.Ru

Read the original in Russian: http://www.pravda.ru/main/2001/11/19/33953.html

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