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News 26 Apr 17

Farmers Threaten to 'Paralyze' Macedonia Over Unpaid Subsidies

Macedonian farmers have warned that they will 'paralyze' the country if the government does not deliver long overdue payments of subsidies that are now several months behind.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic
BIRN
Skopje
Macedonian farmers. Archive photo: MIA

Macedonian farmers have threatened to bring their machinery, livestock and unsold goods to the streets of the capital, Skopje, and to the rest of the country, angry about government excuses that it cannot pay them some 100 million euros in overdue subsidies because of the current political gridlock.

"We demand meetings with ministers not only over the payment of the subsidies but also to help us over the low prices of our goods," Risto Velkov, from the farmers' union, said.

"If the agriculture and finance ministers remain deaf, we will radicalize our protests," Velkov warned, adding that if they do not receive the money by Wednesday, they will block streets in Skopje and key road junctions across the country.

"Skopje will be totally paralyzed. Nothing will function. We will bring our livestock here [to Skopje, our entire machinery, our cows, sheep and pigs," cattleman Havzi Breza, said.

The farmers' warning comes after the provisional government failed to deliver the subsidies for seven months. The Ministries of Finance and of Agriculture insist that they cannot pay any subsidies until the formation of a new government, a process which is currently blocked.

The Finance Ministry on Tuesday said they have the money to pay the farmers but the provisional Finance Minister, Kiril Minoski, cannot sign the papers because he could be held criminally accountable.

"Minister Minoski is not hiding from meeting the farmers. The problem is not in the Finance Ministry but in the provisions of criminal law. If the problematic provisions are scrapped, there will be no obstacles to making the payments," the ministry wrote.

Prior to the December 11 general polls, the provisional government tasked with carrying out the elections insisted that the payment of large sums during elections was illegal.

But, after the polls, when the political parties found themselves in a stalemate over the announced election of an opposition-led government, the excuse became that by law, as only provisional office holders, ministers have no authority to grant payments.

The Social Democrats, SDSM, who control the new parliamentary majority but who have been blocked from forming the new government, promise immediate payments once they take power.

"Only the immediate election of a new government is the solution to the problem," the SDSM MP Ljupco Nikolovski said.

"The new government will immediately pay the subsidies for 2016 as well as the overdue payments for the past years and will immediately provide higher and regular subsidy payments," Nikolovski vowed.

Although the authorities have not admitted the entire sum they owe to the farmers, farmers insist that the overdue sum totals around 100 million euros for 2015 and for 2016.

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