An interesting stand-off has developed in the last few days between striking Greek truckers, and a government that seems determined to come out on top. Greek strikes normally follow a certain pattern a day or two of protests, a loud march to parliament, hurried government concessions, and everything goes back to normal.

This time, however, the government has raised the stakes. It's passed an emergency order, which means that truck drivers who refuse to return to work could be arrested or lose their licenses.  And it's  said that the army and navy will be used to transport fuel to hospitals, airports and other "critical sectors". 

Why does this strike matter? Because it's become a key test of the government's willingness to pursue the reforms which it says will restore competitiveness to the Greek economy.  Trucking is one of dozens of so-called "closed professions" in Greece. This means it's a profession that is virtually impossible for an outsider to enter. The holders of trucking licences belong to  a lucrative closed-shop. Consequently, a licence is a valuable commodity, often traded informally between friends and family, and worth tens, or possibly even hundreds, of thousands of Euros.  

Furious truckers

Now the  government is proposing to open-up trucking, and allow anyone to buy a licence. No wonder those truckers who recently invested large sums of money are furious the value of their investment is about to plummet.

The Greek government is expected to try and open-up other closed professions in the near future. Lawyers, architects, even bakers, will all be affected. Some economists believe this could have a radical, and positive effect on the Greek economy. Take  a look at this article: 

 http://www.ekathimerini.com/4dcgi/_w_articles_economy_0_29/07/2010_118679

The IMF and other European governments will watch the outcome of this struggle closely. So will ordinary people who were thinking of coming to Greece on holiday.

Greece's reputation has taken a hammering in recent months, with dramatic TV pictures of strikes and riots being broadcast round the world. Many tourists have already chosen to stay away. Tourism revenues, which fell 10 per cent in 2009, because of the global economic recession, are expected to fall another 9 per cent this year, according to the government.

Now the truckers' strike is causing fuel shortages on many islands, and in some mainland areas, especially in northern Greece.  The summer of discontent rumbles on.....