Romanian farmers, hauliers ramp up protests, block Ukraine border access

BUCHAREST (Reuters) – Hundreds of Romanian farmers and truck drivers ramped up a week-long protest against high business costs on Wednesday, blocking access to a border crossing with Ukraine and protesting on the outskirts of capital Bucharest.

Farmers and hauliers started protesting eight days ago by blocking highways and slowing traffic with convoys of tractors and trucks decked in Romanian flags.

The protests are against the high cost of diesel, insurance rates, EU measures to protect the environment and pressures on the domestic market from imported Ukrainian agricultural goods.

“We will continue protesting until we see the first law approved that enforces solutions for as many of the problems we have pointed out as possible,” some of the protesters said in a statement, sent to media outlets by a local protest leader.

The protests are not centrally coordinated, hampering negotiations with the coalition government, which faces local, parliamentary, presidential and European elections this year.

Agriculture Minister Florin Barbu and 10 farmers’ associations on Monday said they had reached agreement on a number of demands, setting clear deadlines for meeting them, but the protests have continued. Hauliers were still in negotiations with transport and finance ministries.

The protesters want a moratorium on loan repayments, faster subsidy payments and separate lines at border crossings and the Black Sea port of Constanta for EU lorries and trucks from outside the bloc, including Ukraine.

Polish truckers, who have blockaded some border crossings with Ukraine since November, suspended their protest on Tuesday until March 1 after signing an agreement with the government.

On Wednesday, Romanian hauliers protested on the outskirts of Bucharest and blocked lanes to the Siret crossing on the Ukraine border in northeastern Romania, causing more than two hour waits, according to border police data.

Convoys were also stationed on a motorway leading to the port of Constanta, Ukraine’s biggest alternative grain export route since Russia’s invasion of Feb. 2022.

Port operations continued at full pace, with grains arriving at the port mainly by rail and barge across the Danube river, although road transport was also being used, the port authority told Reuters.

(Reporting by Luiza Ilie; editing by Ros Russell)