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Greek farmers end Bulgarian border blockade

Greek farmers protesting low product prices ended a two week blockade of a border crossing with Bulgaria on Saturday after their demands for compensation were met.

world Updated: Feb 07, 2009 20:09 IST

Greek farmers protesting low product prices ended a two week blockade of a border crossing with Bulgaria on Saturday after their demands for compensation were met.

Greece had endured several days of travel chaos with thousands of angry farmers setting roadblocks across the country, but most gave up this week after the government pledged 500 million euros ($640 million) in subsidies on products such as olive oil and wheat.

Some farmers had continued blocking the Promachonas border crossing in northern Greece, fearing the government would not keep its promise. Farmers from Crete demanding subsidies for different products clashed with riot police at Piraeus port near Athens earlier this week.

"About 600 tractors are now leaving Promachonas, the borders with Bulgaria are open," said Pavlos Arabatzis, a farmers union representative. "The minister told us he will resolve any remaining issues so that we can get aid like other
farmers."

The protests have put pressure on the conservative government, which was rocked in December by the worst riots in decades and is struggling with a sharp economic downturn.

Most of Greece's farming sector, which makes up roughly 5 percent of GDP, is composed of small-scale farmers who rely on government subsidies to survive.

Greek Agriculture Minister Sotiris Hatzigakis discussed this week the proposed package with EU Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel seeking approval before disbursing the money.