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Greek drivers block Bulgaria’s border

Bulgaria’s embassy in Athens has been asked to convey its dissatisfaction that Greece’s  internal problems have damaged Bulgaria for the second time in less than a month, Bulgarian Foreign Ministry press service said on February 20 2009.

Bulgaria’s reaction comes after hundreds of long-haul truck Greek drivers staged blockades all around Greece preventing freight traffic entering and leaving the country on February 19 2009. This happened a few weeks after Greek farmers had staged a week-long blockade at the Greek-Bulgarian border to demand more subsidies and higher pensions.

On February 19 Greek drivers asked the authorities to launch frequent checks on foreign trucks entering the country and to stop illegal immigrants sneaking onto their vehicles.

According to Greek Katimerini newspaper, more than 2000 trucks joined the action, blocking the ports of Patras and Corinth, in central Greece, the northwestern port of Igoumenitsa and the crossings of Evzones and Promachon, at the borders with Macedonia and Bulgaria respectively.

On February 20 2009 the Promachon-Koulata checkpoint on the border with Bulgaria was opened for buses and light vehicles but not for heavy vehicles. It is not known how long the protests will continue.

“Greek trucks always get pulled over for inspections but foreign ones cross the border without any checks,” Kathimerini quoted Apostolos Kenanidis, head of the union representing the truckers. Another gripe of drivers is that they often face legal action when would-be migrants are found hidden in their vehicles.

Greek drivers’ demands, however, did not correspond with earlier statements by the Bulgarian embassy in Athens that in the last four months there have been about 30 cases of Bulgarian drivers being detained, tried and sentenced for harbouring illegal immigrants from Greece.

Last year, thе embassy warned that Bulgarian drivers passing the border should be very careful and inspect their vehicles for refugees. The best possibility for that occurs in the coastal Greek town of Igoumenitsa.


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