Bulgarian Agriculture Minister: Road Blocks Are Futile

Domestic | December 4, 2011, Sunday // 12:38|  views

Bulgaria's Agriculture Minister, Miroslav Naydenov, says the example of Greek farmers' border blockades is a proof such move is not productive. Photo by BGNES

Blocking cross border checkpoints and roads is counterproductive, according to Bulgaria's Agriculture Minister, Miroslav Naydenov.

Speaking for the Bulgarian National Radio, BNR, Sunday, Naydenov commented on the week-long protests of Bulgarian farmers, saying the later were rational people, who will assess the situation correctly, and make the right choice.

According to the Minister, the example of Greek farmers' border blockades is proof such move is not productive. He said that these are difficult times for everyone while Bulgaria's grain producing is the most stable sector of the country's farming.

Naydenov informed there have been discussions to cap national subsidies for farmers so that the largest share of the money would be directed to small and medium grain producers.

He pointed out that after an inquiry, the European Commission had answered that according to current rules for direct payments and national co-payments, such move will become possible after 2014.

The Minister said he would not resign, as the demonstrators demand, and vowed to not allow the entire farming sector in the country to suffer over some branch organizations.

Over the week, Bulgarian farmers staged nation-wide protests, and announced Sunday that tractors and equipment from the Veliko Tarnovo, Lovech and Pleven regions are heading to the capital Sofia at noon Monday.

Each year farmers receive EU subsidy, which is determined by the size of their land. The amount slated for 2012 is over BGN 830 M. There are also BGN 110 M in the State budget for grain producers, BGN 71 M for animal keepers and BGN 73 M for tobacco growers.

Grain producers, however, demand another BGN 230 M in the national treasury. The discontent escalated after the passing in the Parliament, at first reading, the draft 2012 budget, where the amount was lower than what was promised by these BGN 230 M. A month before the October 23 local and presidential elections, the cabinet and the farming associations signed a financial frame, which included BGN 570 M for the farming sector.

The farmers accuse Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister, Simeon Djankov, of suffering from amnesia and discarding his own signature.

On Sunday, their representatives told the Bulgarian National Radio, BNR, they now knew they would not get any more money, but will keep protesting in demanding Djankov's and Naydenov's resignations.

Their outrage flared further after comments of Prime Minister, Boyko Borisov, who stressed the grain producers were the only ones to come to the cabinet before the elections "to twist the government's arms." He explained that the answer had been that farmers would get more money only if there would be such option since agriculture is a priority and this is why both Djankov, and the PM himself have signed the agreement.

Borisov underlined that the most important part of the text in the agreement was that "funding would be slated only within the frame of the possibility to secure national subsidies," and vehemently denied that the agreement was sealed before the elections with the goal of political gains.

He reiterated earlier statements that the huge share of the subsidies goes to 7-8 millionaires in the sector, who are driving Bentleys.

"What I saw on all news were protesting farmers around barbecues, eating pork chops, dancing folk dances under the sounds of orchestras – as they are celebrating something like Christmas. These 7-8 firms are sponsoring all this – they are sending the food like some social assistance, to keep up the good mood. And all this while they are getting more money than last year – the notification from Brussels came yesterday – we got the green light with BGN 70 M to give them vouchers so that they would not pay excise duty on fuels," Borisov said in a recent TV interview.

When asked to comment on the demonstrators threat they will bring their tractors to Sofia and block the already heavily-congested capital, the PM stated that they were welcome; wished them a safe trip, but appealed to them to keep in mind that 2 million people live in the city and for this reason - arrive after 8 pm.

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Tags: Agriculture Minister, Miroslav Naydenov, Greek farmers, blockades, counterproductive, Prime Minister, Boyko Borisov, tractors, sofia, procession, Miroslav Naydenov, block, thoroughfares, cross-border checkpoints, tobacco growers, animal keepers, grain producers, subsidy, budget, Strike, protest, machines, farmers, Simeon Djankov


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