NEWS

Anger at farmers is growing

Pressure is growing on Greece from neighboring countries and the European Commission to end the farmers’ blockade, which is restricting trade and the movement of people. Prime Minister George Papandreou held an informal Cabinet meeting yesterday to discuss the issue as the number of roadblocks, including those at Greece’s borders, grew to more than 30. «The government is open to dialogue if that is what the farmers want as well,» said Papandreou, who promised wide reforms to the agricultural sector. PASOK has already organized round-table talks with farmers next week. The farmers have issued a series of financial demands, as they did last January when the then New Democracy government resolved by the dispute by pledging 425 million euros in compensation payments for damaged crops. The financial aid package has yet to receive the approval of the European Commission. Sources said that Brussels could still ask for the money to be returned as the payments could breach competition rules or Greece may be fined. The Comission also indicated yesterday that it is monitoring Athens’s reaction to the current protests and did not rule out the possibility of legal action if the government fails to restore the free movement of goods and people. Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov reportedly contacted EC President Jose Manuel Barroso on Tuesday to express his frustration with the fact that the entry of his country’s products to Greece is being blocked and requested up to 10 million euros in compensation. «Many European Union directives are being violated. This is not Bulgaria’s problem and there is no reason why this country should bear the brunt of the problem,» Borisov was quoted as saying in local media. «Why are the Greeks protesting now, and not in the summer when they have to do the harvest, or at Easter when more than 50,000 Bulgarians go to their country on holiday? They do it now because they have nothing better to do.» Bulgarian Agriculture Minister Miroslav Naidenov said he has written to Brussels with his Romanian counterpart, Mihail Dumitru, to demand that the EC take action against Greece.