Thousands of Greek drivers blocked a border crossing with Bulgaria and staged protests at two ports in western Greece on Friday, demanding a crackdown on unlicensed transport companies and illegal economic migrants.
Police said around 2,000 truckers had halted traffic at the Promachonas border checkpoint since Thursday and were gathering at the ports of Patras and Igoumenitsa, which serve ferry routes to Italy and Cyprus.
The Greek Truck Drivers Federation said it was demanding controls to stop unlicensed international transport companies, particularly from Balkan states like Moldovia, carrying goods to and from Greece.
The truckers also called for measures to deal with large groups of illegal migrants gathered in the two ports, who were destroying goods and fighting drivers in their efforts to stow away onboard, they said.
"The leadership decided to stage a lasting strike starting on Thursday blocking the entrances and exits of the country," the federation statement said.
The Transport Ministry said it had already taken steps to curb unlicensed trucking and was evaluating ways to prevent stowaways in cooperation with the Justice Ministry.
"The ministry doesn't understand the reasons truck drivers decided to go on strike and block international commercial transport, a blockade that forces our country to answer to the international community and our EU partners," the ministry said.
Last month, Greek farmers demanding compensation for low agricultural prices blocked the Bulgarian border for two weeks, prompting Sofia to protest to the European Union. The protests subsided after Greece's conservative government promised the farmers 500 million euros ($628.8 million).
"The Bulgarian side expresses its discontent over the fact that Bulgaria, for a second time in less than a month, suffers because of internal Greek problems," a Bulgarian Foreign Ministry statement sent to Athens on Friday said.
Greece's Foreign Ministry had no comment.
The ruling New Democracy party, which has fallen behind in polls amid public anger at scandals and a sharp economic downturn, was shaken by Greece's worst riots in decades in December sparked by the police killing of a teenager.
Last Mod: 20 Şubat 2009, 14:29