Striking taxis lifted a cordon that they had set up around central Athens and other key roads on Monday, restoring the normal flow of traffic around the capital.
Earlier on, Syntagma Square in the heart of the city had been completely cut off and confusion reigned as taxis parked along the length of the road from Agios Sostis to Amalias Avenue and from the U.S. Embassy up to the Hilton Hotel had blocked all traffic along the city's central roads. Police intervened to prevent them driving down to the square itself.
Taxi owners on Monday launched a 48-hour strike in protest at government plans to fully liberalise their profession and lift all restrictions on the number of taxi licences issued. They are demanding a meeting with the transport minister in order to present their own proposals and are planning to hold a meeting outside their association's offices at 17 Marni Street on Tuesday morning at 10:00, following by a motorised procession to Parliament.
In earlier action by taxi owners on Monday, they had blocked access to both Athens International Airport and Piraeus Port. As they came off Attiki Odos exit ramps in Holargos, Katehaki and Messogion, meanwhile, they also caused severe traffic congestion in those areas.
In a surprise move on Saturday night, taxi owners' unions called a 48-hour nationwide strike beginning at 5:00 a.m. Monday and lasting until 5:00 a.m. on Wednesday, in the peak of the tourist season.
Taxi cab owners have also warned that they are prepared to go on an indefinite strike if the government does not back down.
The action by cab owners also caused a traffic jam in the central and side streets of Piraeus, including the main Akti Posidonos coastal road, obstructing buses and trams from carrying out their routes.
The biggest problem was at Akti Xaveriou, where thousands of passengers were unable to board tour buses for visits to sites in Athens.
Athens chief prosecutor Eleni Raikou has ordered case files to be drawn up immediately for taxi drivers for offences that are prosecutable ex officio, such as obstructing traffic.
Athens' 'Eleftherios Venizelos' International Airport (AIA) and the port of Piraeus are the main gateways in and out of the country, from where thousands of tourists head daily to the Greek islands and the periphery.
The president of the federation of Attica taxi owners' unions (SATA) Thymios Lymberopoulos warned that the mobilisations will continue and be stepped up, and once again called on the transport minister to take back his decision and commence dialogue with cab owners on the basis of the draft Presidential Decree prepared by his predecessor.
Meanwhile, taxi owners from Tripolis, Sparta, Argos and Nafplio raided the bars at the toll station at Nestani on the Corinth-Tripolis stretch of the national highway, allowing cars to pass without paying tolls, while some 200 taxi cabs have queued up along the sides of the highway.
In Serres, taxi owners staged a symbolic takeover at the Promachonas border station.
Transport ministry denies problems at airports due to taxi strike
The Infrastructure, Transport and Networks Ministry on Monday denied that the taxi strike had disrupted the smooth running of any regional airports around the country, except for the 'Nikos Kazantzakis' international airport in Iraklion, Crete where the entrance had been blocked by taxi drivers for a short space of time late in the afternoon.