Bulgarian Prime Minister Nikolai Denkov says that Bulgarian grain producers have “in the past two days started behaving like terrorists”.
Bulgarian grain producers plan large-scale road traffic disruptions at the start of next week, with demands including the resumption of a ban on imports of various foodstuffs from Ukraine, after the ban expired as a result of decisions by the Bulgarian Parliament and the European Commission.
“I do not negotiate with terrorists,” Denkov said, in comments shown on a video broadcast by bTV on September 16.
“In the past two days, they started behaving like terrorists. They use false arguments, make demands now, that something should happen immediately. I do not negotiate with terrorists,” he said.
Denkov said that he expects grain producers to come to the negotiating table and talk about substance.
A day earlier, Denkov said in an interview with Bulgarian National Television that the grain producers had formally informed him that they were refusing his call for talks.
He said that the decision to lift the ban – on imports from Ukraine of wheat, maize, rapeseed and sunflower oil seed – was the correct one.
“Four cereals were stopped in the previous period. Bulgaria never had a problem with three of them, we only had a problem with sunflower seeds and crude sunflower oil. So all along our approach was that we have to see what Bulgaria’s problem is, of those producers who are specifically affected and to protect them.
“What we see in the discussion is the substitution of the real problem with some general demands that have little to do with reality,” Denkov said.
On the grain producers’ refusal to hold talks, he said: “They already refused the Minister of Agriculture once, I invited them tomorrow and they refused again. I have an official letter that they refuse, which very clearly shows that they are not looking for a solution. They are looking for a confrontation. I don’t know why”.
Also on September 15, in comments posted on the government’s website, Denkov said that freeing the import of agricultural products from Ukraine benefits all of the public. This was why the government would not give in to blackmail attempts, he said.
Denkov said that official statistics clearly showed the financial condition of grain producers: in 2022, when Russia began its current invasion of Ukraine, they reported a profit of between 20 per cent and 25 per cent compared with 2021.
“They say that the sector is dying, but such profit rates in the world are actually only cause for envy,” he said.
In recent years, the state has given agriculture 1.5 – 2 billion leva of taxpayers’ money, and it reports profits with this support.
Denkov said that the approach of the state to support the entire agricultural sector was wrong and harmful for the public: “This year there are also companies that continue to make profits. But there are others who are struggling and their issues need to be specifically addressed”.
He said that the planned protest was “beginning to acquire a political character – both with the requests for support from parties and with the fact that some of the people who lead and organise it are close to certain political figures”.
On September 15, reports in the Bulgarian-language media showed close ties between several figures involved in the grain producers planned protest and President Roumen Radev, an opponent of the pro-Western government that was elected into office in Bulgaria in June 2023.
The protest planned for September 18 is intended to disrupt traffic at three border crossings with Romania, the road from Dragoman to Kalotina at the border with Serbia, junctions on the Varna – Bourgas, Sliven – Yambol, Stara Zagora – Haskovo and Plovdiv – Svilengrad roads, the Kresna road to Greece, and the beginning of the Hemus Motorway at Varna.
Plans are for the protest to move to Bulgaria’s capital city Sofia on September 19.
On social networks, critics have lampooned the planned protest, citing the profits of Bulgarian grain producers, and calling it the “Maybach protest”.
Meanwhile, on September 15, following the EC decision to lift the ban on imports, Poland, Slovakia and Hungary announced their own restrictions on Ukrainian grain imports, Reuters reported.
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