Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borissov visited the Bulgarian – Greek border on February 27, crossing it to speak to Greek police, customs officials and farmers – and telling them what they were doing was a disgrace and threatening “very serious steps” unless they resolved their problems soon.
Borissov’s visit to the Kulata – Promachonas checkpoint came a day after, answering questions in Parliament about the border blockade, he expressed his frustration that none of his approaches to Greek authorities and the European Commission about the matter had produced a result.
In a post on Facebook, accompanied by photographs of his visit, Borissov said that he had spoken to Bulgarian police and customs officials and to the Greek police, customs officials and farmers.
Of the latter, he said, “I told them that what they are doing is a shame and so far, Bulgaria has always, at all high-level meetings, supported our Greek friends and neighbours. But if they do not solve their problems as soon as possible, I told them flatly, I intend to take very serious steps. Apparently diplomacy does not help. I hope that this time they will understand me correctly”.
A report on February 27 by public broadcaster Bulgarian National Television said that all border checkpoints with Greece were operating normally. Only at the Ilinden checkpoint had the movement of lorries been barred up to 10am.
Reports after Borissov’s visit quoted him as saying that he had told Greek police that the “disgrace” of the border blockade should be brought to an end “or I will think that it is directed against Bulgaria”.
When he crossed into Greek territory, he had seen no tractor drivers, only parked tractors. “I walked for 10 minutes among the tractors, there was not even a live chicken, I could not find anyone to speak to”.
As a last resort, he said that it was possible that he would not go to the March 7 EU-Turkey summit and would use Bulgaria’s right of veto. “I am giving them a deadline of a few days to think.”
The March 7 EU-Turkey summit is intended to achieve progress on a deal with Ankara on an action plan to stem migration flows and tackled networks of traffickers and smugglers. The deal envisages Turkey receiving three billion euro assistance from the EU to help it shelter refugees from Syria, while Turkey is expected to prevent them from travelling on across its borders into Europe.