Greek farmers march against property tax

Farmers from the Greek island of Crete clash with riot police during a demonstration outside Parliament in Athens on December 20, 2013

Greek farmers pelted oranges at riot police in central Athens on Friday during a protest against a controversial property tax demanded by international creditors of the crisis-hit country.

Carrying black flags, several hundred farmers descended on the finance ministry and then tried to get close to the parliament building in Syntagma Square, scene of several riots during years of economic misery in Greece.

They brandished banners reading "No to the double taxation" and "Not one euro for the fields."

They were protesting at a new proposed property law, which would fix a tax on agricultural plots larger than 1,000 square metres (10,764 square feet).

Previously farmers were taxed only on their income.

The law, which the parliament is expected to approve late on Friday, includes exemptions and tax reductions for inhabitants of small islands and people with low incomes.

But unions have attacked what they say is an over-taxation of property, in a country that has one of the highest property ownership rates in Europe, with more than 70 percent.

Investing in property is traditionally seen in Greece as a fall-back against shortages in state welfare.

Experts fear that the tax will deal an additional blow to the country's real estate market which has already experienced a drop of more than 30 percent in recent years.

"At this difficult economic time, taxes burden the weakest," bemoaned 38-year-old farmer Giorgos Xylouris, who left his hometown of Heraklion in Crete on Thursday to participate in the protest.

Farmers from the Greek island of Crete clash with riot police during a demonstration outside Parliament in Athens on December 20, 2013