Ivan Petrinski, Bulgarian News newspaper: Social tension in Greece will continue, but currently there is no indication of blockade on the Bulgarian border10 January 2017 | 15:07 | Radio FOCUS
FOCUS: The Balkans are paralyzed by cold and snow. The situation remains complicated in Serbia, where the heavy snowfall led to a series of road accidents in the country. The situation is also complicated in neighbouring Macedonia, many sections of highways in Moldova remained blocked due to the snow. Bucharest was also paralyzed by the cold. An anticyclone also brought strong snowfall and unusual cold in Greece. We will now speak on the situation in Bulgaria’s southern neighbour with Ivan Petrinski, editor-in-chief of Bulgarian News newspaper in Athens. What is the current situation in Greece, are any major roads closed, any restrictions on highways?
Ivan Petrinski First of all, I must say that such a problem has never been seen in Greece. This is due to Greece’s geographical features because, as we know, it is a rather large and dispersed country, it has not been completely closed off. There were problems mainly in the northern and northwest parts of the country, where the temperatures were lower, there was more snowfall, and more freezing; the territory is a more mountainous one near the Macedonian border, in the region near the Albanian border, the city of Florina. There was also snowfall around Athens of course, mainly in the regions around the mountains Parnitha and Hymettos, in the northern part of the city, but in the lower part of the city there were no problems. One road was closed, between Corinth and Patras, which is essentially the more important road that was closed, but it was for literally only a couple of hours. Afterwards, the highway was operational again.
FOCUS: Everyone who is to travel to Greece should be calm, the situation is under control, is that right?
Ivan Petrinski Absolutely, there is no cataclysm or disaster, it is not on such scale.
FOCUS: Is there any information of interest, related to the refugee centres in the country? Is there a problem there and in general what aid is being provided for the poor and homeless?
Ivan Petrinski Previously, again during such a cold wave, there was a problem with refugee centres that are out in the open, mostly on the islands on which, sadly, there was also snowfall, in the eastern part of the Aegean Sea. Problems are solved, with the idea of moving refugees somewhere warmer and more secure. Aside from that, the decision of the Athens Municipality was interesting, with which they opened three subway stations in the centre of the city during the coldest days, for the homeless and not just for refugees, so that people could stay somewhere warm and secure, and for nobody to suffer in the cold, as the temperatures there were also about and under zero degrees.
FOCUS: Despite the cold weather, the low temperatures, here is another topic: Is there still social tension in Greece, will the discontent continue this year as well in regards to the tax changes, social policy, employment law?
Ivan Petrinski To tell the truth, that tension has not stopped. In the country, in its entire history in general as a country, such a heavy tax policy and such financial restrictions have not been seen throughout its history. What was introduced as measures during the last Tsipras government, such radical burdens on direct and indirect taxes and cutting of income has never been imagined. This tension will of course continue, because people believe they are at the edge of their capabilities.
FOCUS: It was exactly that kind of social tension that formed at the end of last year. Greek farmers back then threatened to blockade the Bulgarian border on January 23. Will these threats materialise, is it really possible for a blockade to happen, or will this tension settle down?
Ivan Petrinski There was indeed such a meeting of national committees, which even organised the previous farmer strikes. They chose the city of Larissa as their headquarters 2-3 years ago, and they were planning to begin effective strike actions from January 23. This was on December 17, and happened immediately after an unsuccessful attempt to block the northern border of Greece with Macedonia on the Evzonoi border point, which of course did not go through, and they more or less gave up on that attempt then. They gathered at Larissa with the idea of preparing a strategy for action, and the idea was that at least a week prior to these strike actions, before any blockades on Greek border points, they would start occupying more important internal roads, inside the country itself, as well as certain city squares in Greece as a preliminary symptom, as a threat for more serious strike actions. For now, no development is observed regarding this, to tell the truth. We are also waiting to see what will happen.
FOCUS: There is no indication for a blockade by the current moment?
Ivan Petrinski Yes, there is no indication, no signs. If something is to happen, there should at least be some movement or some statement made somewhere. Currently, about a month has passed since that meeting and there have not been any signs that something will be happening. Still, we should not forget the fact that Northern Greece is just as paralyzed by the cold wave as us in Bulgaria. I suppose that nobody would go out and do something like this in these weather conditions, as we know how much effort it requires. We are talking about standing in the open for hours and for days, and I do not believe it to happen. If something like that is happening, I do not believe it will before the weather allows, at the very least. We should not rule it out, but for now there is no indication, no movement that shows such intentions.
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