Protesting Bulgarian Farmers Count on PM's Wisdom

Society | December 6, 2011, Tuesday // 10:50|  views

In December 2008, hundreds of protesting Bulgarian farmers from all across the country entered Sofia with their tractors which caused chaos in the traffic in the capital city. Photo by Sofia Photo Agency

Protesting Bulgarian farmers, mostly grain producers, have occupied downtown Sofia Tuesday morning with about 170 tractors parked near the Saint Alexander Nevsky cathedral.

The say they are counting on the wisdom and good will of Prime Minister, Boyko Borisov, to resolve their problem with the subsidies.

Radoslav Hristov, Chair of the Association of Grain Producers, speaking for the TV channel bTV, apologized to Sofia residents for any inconvenience the protest will cause them. He said that all farming equipment had entered downtown Sofia after midnight.

The rally begins at noon in front of the cathedral and will be followed by a march to the building of the Council of Ministers. Farming machines will not be part of the procession since the City Hall did not issue a permit for this.

"We hope the PM will finally say some decisive words; accept us, so that we can find out if they lied to us or not, if there would be negotiations on the frame of the signed financial agreement; if there will be resignations – after all the protest is a form of dialogue," Hristov said.

Nataliya Todorova, Executive Director of the Association, explained the grain producers want constructive dialogue, clear rules and principles in the sector.

The farmers, after parking their tractors in the middle of the night, have checked into hotels - the accommodations have been paid for by their employers. The equipment is guarded overnight by a private security firm.

"There are 170 tractors in downtown Sofia and from media reports one would think that the capital had been invaded by Martians while such rallies are something normal," Agriculture Minister, Miroslav Naydenov, on his part, told Nova TV, reiterating the cabinet had not misled the grain producers by signing in September the financial agreement.

Naydenov explained that at the time Finance Minister had stressed that such agreement is not a normal practice and should not be signed before the State budget for next year becomes clear.

Grain producers say that they either want the cabinet to adhere to the agreement or the resignations of Naydenov and Djankov, contradicting earlier statements – on Sunday, they told the Bulgarian National Radio, BNR, they now knew they would not get any more money, but will keep protesting in demanding the resignations.

The farmers further noted they have secured "comfort" for Borisov's ruling, center-right Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria party, GERB, during the elections, where half of all Bulgarians, including farmers, voted for them only to be lied to in the aftermath.

They also informed their entry in Sofia has been obstructed by unnecessary checks of documents and for DUI.

The Tuesday rally is scheduled to end around 5 pm; there could be another one Wednesday. The City Hall's permit for the protests expires on Thursday.

Last week, Bulgarian farmers staged nation-wide protests.

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.

The outrage of grain producers flared further after Borisov's comments saying the grain producers were the only ones to come to the cabinet before the elections "to twist the government's arms," while the huge share of the subsidies goes to 7-8 millionaires in the sector, who are driving Bentleys.

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


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