I’m holidaying in Greece. Trucker strike causes petrol shortage: Greece falls to its knees.Posted: July 29, 2010
Many apologies for the lack of frequent updates, but I’ve been holidaying on the Greek island of Rhodes for the last week. It’s absolutely lovely here, if not a bit windy. The weather is just splendid, and the beaches are truly a joy to behold.
Rhodes itself, which is a small island an hour away from Athens by plane, is lovely and quaint. The island plays host to a medieval ‘Old Town’, which still, remarkably, is rather intact. There are small, quiet beaches and hidden coves, which give the island a wonderful sense of seclusion. It is, I guess you could say, a pretty quiet place. This is rather ironic, seeing as the town also is home to Faliraki, and its swathes of industrialisation: big, big hotels, big clubs, and big beaches, to cater to the many tourists who like to visit, and occasionally cause trouble. Makis, our hotel manager, who is a lovely chap, tells us that a few years ago, the tourists were causing all kinds of havoc in Faliraki, and around the island, but that this has generally subsided.
Considering Greece’s ongoing economic crisis, I was quite concerned to see how such an ordeal would have affected the country first-hand. Much to my relief, there weren’t any airborne flaming toilet rolls, or anything of the sort, when I briefly landed in Athens before connecting to Rhodes. No, the people I’ve talked to say that again, things have gotten a lot better. Yiorgious, a family friend, imparted that, “If you have a job, you don’t feel it.” It’s only when you don’t have a job that you start to feel the true extent of things. The job market isn’t doing fabulously, and it’s very hard to find work. Not so different from England, then.
However, a crisis of quite a different nature took hold of the country a few days ago. Truck drivers responsible for delivering petrol to the nation’s petrol stations went on strike, refusing to work because of new EU sanctions that would increase competition in the Greek oil industry, as a way of alleviating some of the pain caused by the country’s economic woes. The truck drivers, unfortunately, didn’t see things the same way, and three days ago refused to drive their refuelling trucks, essentially denying the country of petrol.
On the first day of the strike, as we drove through Faliraki on our way to the beach, we saw long queues of cars outside petrol stations, literally stretching for kilometres. Later that day, we heard that another family friend had queued for over an hour to fill her car up. Yesterday, the queues were gone, and petrol stations around the island were unanimously closed, as they’d all exhausted their petrol supplies.
Then, yesterday evening, the Greek government invoked a ‘rare emergency order’, forcing the truck drivers back to work. Minister of Finance, George Papaconstantinou, was quoted as saying that “No one has the right to paralyse the country.”
Despite the presence of this ‘rare emergency order’, truck drivers in Athens refuse to relent, comparing themselves to King Leonidas and his 300 Spartans. The internets are going to have a field day with this.
Suffice to say, it’s a sad state of affairs that a petrol shortage, in two, maybe three days has managed to essentially bring the country to its knees. This should perhaps be a sign that our reliance on oil is perhaps maybe a little insane. Then again, Greeks have always been (at least from my experience) partial to thinking in extremes. The economic trouble it’s now facing was caused by mass dissidence to government opinion (not paying taxes), and the problems that resulted from this was met by a collective uproar. I’d say it’s because we’re passionate.
I’ll try my best to keep you updated as things progress, but I’m being assured that the petrol stations on Rhodes are now all functioning once more, and that the island can rest easily once again. We’ll see. We’re just on our way to the beach now. We’ll hopefully make it back.
Update: We’re still not able to get petrol, even though the strike is supposedly meant to be over. I’m getting conflicting reports from the BBC News site that the truck drivers aren’t relenting, but I’ve also heard that there is petrol, but since there’s such a high demand for it still, it’s extremely hard to source. We’ve been advised to visit a petrol station very early tomorrow morning. I’ll let you know how that pans out.
Update #2: (30/07/2010) We finally managed to get some petrol this morning. There was a short queue outside a nearby filling station at 8am. The gentleman working there told us that things should be back to normal today, and that there’s plenty of petrol for everyone.
Update #3: (30/07/2010, PM) Have just come back from the beach, and the traffic all over town is ridiculous, thanks to large queues of cars outside petrol stations. If you’re in Rhodes, don’t go driving tonight, and if you need petrol, go early in the morning.
Update #4: (04/08/2010) Things have been normal for a few days, now. For any tourists thinking of visiting, there’s no more trouble finding petrol, at least not in Rhodes.