Double Blockade Continues on Bulgaria-Greece Border

Southeast Europe | February 20, 2016, Saturday // 14:50|  views

File photo, BGNES

A 'counter-blockade' set up by Bulgarian transit truck drivers on the border with Greece has entered its fifth day in response to protests of Greek farmers who have kept key border crossings largely sealed off for nearly a month.

All six Bulgarian border crossing points into Greece are closed as of 14:00 local time on Saturday, according to the Interior Ministry. Only vehicles transporting small children or sick people are granted passage. 

The counter-blockade began as a measure of retaliation to actions of Greek farmers on Tuesday. It began from Kulata-Promachonas and Ililden-Exochi, the two main border crossings for commercial trucks and tourists alike, but was then extended to the other four checkpoints on the Bulgairan side. 

Talks seeking a solution to the double blockade involved Transport Minister Ivaylo Moskovski, Blagoevgrad region's Governor Biser Mihaylov and Greek Ambassador to Bulgaria Dimosthenis Stoidis, alongside representatives of stranded Bulgarian truck drivers and of Greek farmers.

Radio Focus quotes a representative of a Bulgarian transport businesses union as saying no agreement to lift either blockade was reached during the negotiations.

Iliyan Filipov, of the Bulgarian Association of the Road Transport Union (abbreviated BASAT) said Greek farmers had reiterated an earlier proposal suggesting that Kulata-Promachonas, which has been the most severely affected border crossing, be reopened until all vehicles waiting in kilometers-long queues on both sides of the border pass freely. The latter idea was rejected by Bulgarian truck drivers, Filipov is quoted as explaining.

Minister Moskovski has so far made several unsuccessful attempts at talking to representatives of farmers seeking a solution.

Several Bulgarian institutions have referred the case to the EU, either calling for financial compensations for the losses incurred by transit truck drivers or urging an infringement procedure against Greece.

Bulgarian tour operators report that thousands of bookings for a vacation in Greece - a typical choice of Bulgarian families planning a holiday in the spring or around the Orthodox Easter - have been withdrawn over the past few weeks due to concerns the blockade will continue longer than expected. 

Greek farmers, on the other hand, say they will not retreat until the government in Athens backtracks on plans for a reform to pension and taxation laws. 

In a statement earlier in February, the EU Commission told Novinite that the EU law doesn't give any powers to take direct action or initiate immediate sanctions with regard to the ongoing blockade.


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Tags: greece, Bulgaria, Ivaylo Moskovski, Dimosthenis Stoidis, blockade, counter-blockade, farmers, truck drivers, BASAT


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