Page last updated at 09:19 GMT, Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Greek roadblocks anger Bulgaria

Lorries waiting at Bulgarian border town of Kulata, 24 Jan 09
Lorry drivers fear their cargoes will spoil while they wait at the border

Bulgaria has asked the European Commission to intervene because a border blockade by Greek farmers is preventing goods getting through.

In a letter to the commission, Bulgaria said its hauliers were incurring heavy losses and it demanded that Greece open a transport corridor.

The farmers want help from the Greek government as their industry has been hit by low food prices and bad weather.

They say an aid offer worth 500m euros (468m; $650m) does not go far enough.

The farmers are now into their ninth day of protests, which have also shut border crossings to Turkey and Macedonia.

Bulgaria's main road transport association, Basat, says it will sue the Greek state for compensation. It estimated that by Saturday the Greek protest had caused Bulgaria losses of nearly 10m euros, not counting losses from non-fulfilment of contracts.

Farms under pressure

Greece's main highway network is close to being paralysed by the blockades of tractors and trailers, the BBC's Malcolm Brabant reports from Athens.

The latest main road to be severed by the farmers is the one between Athens and the western port city of Patras. The highway was made impassable at the Corinth Canal bridge, where the mainland meets the Peloponnese peninsula.

The farmers' leaders say they do not intend to stop their protest until the government meets all their demands.

Greek Agriculture Minister Sotiris Hatzigakis offered a financial assistance package worth 500m euros and insisted the state could not afford to pay any more.

But the farmers turned the offer down, saying that low prices for produce such as corn, wheat and cotton were sending some towards ruin. They want fixed subsidies for the future.

But the European Union wants to phase out support for cotton production in central Greece, since it requires huge quantities of water and is regarded as an inefficient crop, our correspondent says.

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