Smuggling charges for stranded ship’s crew

The captain and crew of a Bolivian-flagged freighter that ran aground off northern Greece last week with over 1.5 million packs of suspected contraband cigarettes on board will be charged with smuggling today after being arrested on Saturday. The Pena, a converted car ferry registered in La Paz, ran onto rocks in the area of Vathi on the northern Aegean island of Thasos on Wednesday. As the vessel started to take on water, its captain, Ukrainian national Anatoliy Bydrike, summoned the port authorities for help. Officials found that the Pena, which had sailed from the Bulgarian port of Burgas and was heading for Montenegro, was carrying four trucks loaded with a total of 1,564,100 packs of cigarettes – mostly Greek brands. The Pena was pulled off the rocks on Friday and Bydrike and his crew of five were arrested. If a country is forced to use this threat once again, this quite simply means that either its interests are not compatible with the goals of the EU, or that it has been sorely lacking in diplomacy in handling these issues. In effect, the latter means that the government has failed.