Bulgarian hauliers threaten new counter-blockade at border with Greece

By bne IntelliNews February 25, 2016

The Bulgarian hauliers warned that they will launch a new counter-blockade at the border with Greece, if protesting Greek farmers do not permanently lift their blockade by February 29, according to a notice on the website of the transport ministry.

The road blockade by the Greek farmers, who are protesting against pensions reforms, has been in place for about five weeks with sporadic interruptions. The result is queues of trucks on the Bulgarian side reaching 10 kilometres in length.

Bulgarian road transportation representatives had meetings with transport minister Ivaylo Moskovski and foreign minister Daniel Mitov on February 24.

Moskovski pointed out that harassment by Greek farmers has continued for nearly 10 years and it is "totally unacceptable and intolerable".

According to Moskovski, the losses for Bulgarian hauliers and business are worth tens of millions, but until now no compensation has been paid by the Greek side.  According to road carriers’ estimates, the average direct daily loss is €150 per truck.

Bulgarian hauliers said that their counter-blockade will apply only to Greek trucks and vans transporting agricultural products through the Bulgarian border checkpoints. They added that they will also block such Greek vehicles trying to enter Bulgaria through Macedonia. The road carriers pointed out that this selective counter-blockade is justified because the current crisis is caused by Greek agricultural producers.

Furthermore, the hauliers warned that if the problem persists, they will move to closing the border with Greece for all vehicles during the periods April 30 – May 7 and July 15 – August 20.

Meanwhile, Moskovski and Mitov said that they will initiate on a bilateral basis and at the level of the European Commission (EC) the creation of a new type of procedure allowing the EC to intervene quickly and effectively to solve such crises. Their two ministries have also notified all EU member states about the severity of the problem at the Bulgarian-Greek border.

The blockade has an impact on the tourism industry too. Nastimir Ananiev, chairman of the parliament's transport committee, said that around 40,000 Bulgarians have cancelled their trips to Greece and about 30,000 Greek citizens have cancelled visits to Bulgaria, Reuters reported on February 24.

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