Bulgaria Reboots Plans to Fence Off Turkey Border as FMD Spreads

Politics » DIPLOMACY | March 30, 2011, Wednesday // 18:16
Bulgaria: Bulgaria Reboots Plans to Fence Off Turkey Border as FMD Spreads A watchtower is seen behind a wire fence on the border between Bulgaria and Turkey near Kapitan Andreevo border crossing point some 300km from Sofia, 11 February 2011. EPA/BGNES

The recently renewed outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in Southeast Bulgaria has led the government to restore its idea first floated in January 2011 to erect a fence along its border with Turkey.

Bulgarian Agriculture Minister Miroslav Naydenov announced in Parliament Wednesday that the Borisov Cabinet is going to go ahead with the plans to restore some of the Cold War era fences along the Bulgarian-Turkish border in order to prevent wild animals infected with FMD from trespassing into Bulgaria and infecting the domestic livestock.

Naydenov answered MP questions about the measures that the Cabinet is taking to cope with the FMD crisis in the southeastern-most part of the country. FMD is highly contagious and, while it is not so dangerous for humans, a possible outbreak may cause severe economic damages.

After 12 years without FMD cases, in late December all throughout February, Bulgaria saw three outbreaks of FMD originally brought into Bulgaria by a wild boar from Turkey. After several hundred domestic animals were destroyed and a number local and EC-sanctioned measures were introduced, the authorities gained the upper hand.

The new FMD outbreak was detected on March 20, 2011, in three more villages in the southeastern Bulgarian Strandzha mountain, a day before the European Commission was expected to lift the measures, imposed on the Burgas District.

The new outbreak was found at a private farm near the village of Kirovo, close to the border with Turkey. In the next few days, FMD was also found in sheep from various villages in the poor and sparsely populated region - Goliamo Bukovo, Fakia and Momina Tsarkva near the town of Sredets.

Speaking on Wednesday, Bulgaria's Agriculture Minister Naydenov said the new fences will not resemble the Cold War fences but will be like the fences used by the state forestry and hunting lodges to restrict the movement of wild animals.

He said the Bulgarian government hoped that Turkey will take up similar measures on its side of the border in order to restrict the FMD spread.

"The disease is coming from Turkish territory, and if there are no adequate measures, we will be subject to constant risk," the Bulgarian Agriculture Minister stated, while making it clear that the exact nature of the future anti-FMD fences on the Bulgarian-Turkish border will be decided by experts from the ministries of agriculture, foreign affairs, interior, and defense. The fence will be funded by the state budget.

Wednesday's announcement is a clear reversal of Naydenov's position after last week he stated once again that Bulgaria will not be fencing off its Turkish border because Turkey would view such a move negatively.

On April 5, the veterinary committee of the European Commission is going to discuss the situation with the spread of FMD in Bulgaria; during the meeting, Bulgaria will ask for EU financial aid.

"We are going to ask for reconsideration of the measures that the EC adopted over the first outbreak of FMD as well as for expanding the EU compensations for Bulgaria," the minister explained adding that the owners of the livestock destroyed in January-February over FMD have already received their compensations.

Naydenov further said that there was no way to immunize the domestic animals in the region near the Turkish border against FMD, and that the government is going to use standard practices to tackle the disease – destruction, disinfection, and quarantine.

Bulgaria's intention to build a fence on its Turkish border comes as Greece is also planning a similar measure but designed to tackle the influx of illegal immigrants from the Middle East via Turkey.

Turkey has met with suspicion the intentions of the two countries to build border fences. According to the Chairman of Turkish Center for International Relations and Strategic Analysis, Sinan Ogan, the two countries have hidden agendas.

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Tags: foot-and-mouth disease, fmd, European Commission, Burgas, turkey, border, food safety agency, fmd, Bulgarian-Turkish border, Miroslav Naydenov, Agriculture Minister

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