site.btaPM: Protesting Farmers Want Things That Have Already Been Done or Make Unrealistic Demands
Prime Minister Nikolay Denkov said here Monday that the protesting farmers want things that have already been done or make demands with unrealistic deadlines. "Some of these require notifications to the EC and we can't skip those, we have to follow the rules," the Prime Minister said.
Denkov said that the government is "talking with the grain producers" but whether or not there will be a ban on Ukrainian grain cannot be made solely by the producers. "It is a decision that needs to take into consideration the bigger economic and political picture. It it made by the government and Parliament," said Denkov.
He also said that the interests and demands of the various farmers - livestock breeders, grain producers and others - diverge. "The driving force behind the ongoing protests are the grain producers," he added referring to allegations that the protest has support across the agricultural sector in Bulgaria.
He also said: "I said clearly yesterday that when they are ready for constructive dialogue, we will sit down and talk with them. They have already refused to meet with us twice. I am not going to invite them any more until they come and say they are ready for a meeting."
Meanwhile, the Agriculture Ministry put out a press release in which Minister Kiril Vatev invites farmers to a meeting to discuss the technical aspects of the lifting of the ban. "We insist that Ukraine withhold its export to Bulgaria until the commodities, quantities and licensing requirements are specified. Specifying these details cannot be done adequately without the participation of the sectoral organizations in the agriculture sector," the Minister adds.
He also says: "In conclusion, I want to inform you that after a detailed discussion by the government of the declaration of the organizing committee for the nation-wide protest, the five demands have been met. It is now essential to specify the products in Item 1 of the declaration."
The five demands in the declaration, in this order are:
- continuing the ban on the import of Ukrainian wheat, maize, rape and oilseed that was lifted by Parliament on Thursday and banning the import of unrefined cooking oil, fresh and frozen fruit and vegetables, milk and dairy products from Ukraine, and tightening control over the origin, quality and safety of farm products imported into Bulgaria;
- payment to agricultural producers, by September 30, of the full amount of compensations for the increased production costs due to the war in Ukraine, scrapping the ceiling on the financial support, and immediate disbursement of the State aid to farmers whose crops have been entirely destroyed by disasters;
- procurement of the financial resources needed to renotify existing State aids and to pay new State aids, including de minimis aid in an increased amount to producers of grapes, potatoes, raspberries, plants grown in greenhouses and tobacco, stockbreeders and bee-keepers;
- relaxation of the conditions for proving eligibility for coupled support under the Common Agricultural Policy Strategic Plan interventions;
- formulation of clear commitments with fixed deadlines for meeting the demands.
Protest and Russian propaganda
The problem with Ukrainian grain imports is Russian propaganda, Transport Minister Georgi Gvozdeikov told bTV on Monday. He was asked to comment grain farmers' protests over the lifting of the ban on Ukrainian grain import to Bulgaria. Grain exports via the Black Sea are significantly restricted, not to say banned, added Gvozdeikov. He also said: "It was the caretaker government [which served before the Denkov Cabinet] that imposing this ban via the European Commission and it was for a reason they did that. You understand that the caretaker government was quite strict in implementing Russia's covenants. This process [of protests] today has quite serious political overtones and seeks to destabilize. They are trying to take Bulgaria off its course and divert it from its clear objectives - those who are filling the Black Sea with drones and with bombs, those who hamper navigation in the Black Sea - they do."
In his opinion, the word "terrorists" that Prime Minister Nikolai Denkov used in reference to the protesting grain farmers quite fairly reflects the facts. "When you invite these people to negotiations and they refuse [...], it means that they want confrontation - not dialogue with the other side and a solution to the problem." He argued that Bulgaria has nothing to lose from importing Ukrainian grain and that the lifting of the ban aims to speed up exports to countries that need grain, such as those in Central and North Africa. The Bulgarian State will also gain quite a bit from VAT on imports. "They are ignoring the truth and using the situation for propaganda. The government will not change its mind about the ban," Minister Gvozdeikov said.