Despite the pouring rain about a thousand protesters – farmers and supporters – gathered in front of the Alexander Nevski Cathedral in central Sofia today to demonstrate for higher government subsidies and more EU money. (All Images Copyright Johann Brandstatter / JB Photography)
While most of the participants arrived by bus, roughly 170 came with their tractors from all over Bulgaria, some from places more than a hundred kilometers away. The expected traffic chaos did not happen because the farmers – not wanting to cause too much of a hassle – drove their machines into Sofia during the night.
The farmers could have saved themselves the trouble, because from around 10 a.m. the police closed off the area around the Nevski Cathedral and blocked several streets between parliament and council of ministers for hours, causing major disruptions in the district.
Today was the seventh day of ongoing protests by farmers and agricultural workers in Bulgaria. Last week farmers temporarily blocked border crossings to Romania and Turkey as well as several main country roads. The farmers are enraged about what they call a broken agreement about the amount and schedule of subsidy payments by the Bulgarian government, demanding an additional 240 million Leva (about € 123 million) per year.
Talks between the farmers and Agricultural Minister Miroslav Naydenov last week and again yesterday brought no result, so more protests can be expected in the coming days and weeks.
Meanwhile, the employees of the state-owned railway company BDZ entered their 13th day of a nationwide strike today. Again 75 to 80 percent of all trains in the country were stopped between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. with no end in sight.
(Sources: Middle East & Balkans News own research, Novinite; 6 Dec 2011)