North Macedonia: Transporters facing chaos at Bogorodica-Evzoni border crossing

North Macedonia: Transporters facing chaos at Bogorodica-Evzoni border crossing

The past two weeks at the Bogorodica-Evzoni border crossing have been filled with chaos, as trucks full of oil and other goods remain stranded most of the day, according to a post on the local DENAR website.

According to the publication, this is due to the measures applied in Greece according to which every professional driver must be tested upon entering the country. An additional problem is caused by the rather restrictive 6.00-to-18.00 work-shift, but most importantly by the fact that this is the only border crossing with Greece that remains open. This measure will remain in force until March 22, the article adds.

The problem, according to the on-site report of “DENAR”, exacerbates on Wednesdays and Thursdays, as these days there is an influx of trucks, especially oil tankers, leading to miles-long waiting lines at the border crossing. According to information cited by the publication from the Makam-trans Carriers Association, oil derivatives carriers suffered a 50% dip in turnover compared to the period when truck could head to Thessaloniki to load, return to Skopje to unload cargo and return again to Thessaloniki. Now, carriers say this is not possible. In addition, they report that if they do not arrive in Thessaloniki by 11 am to get a number for loading goods from the refinery, the vehicle remains stuck and may return the next day. If this measure in Greece is extended and does not expire on March 22, according to information the oil reserves and oil derivatives in North Macedonia could be endangered, the publication concludes.

“In other consumer goods, a limited turnover of 30-50% has been recorded. The transport costs of all carriers have surged due to the long delay at the border crossing, but also due to the change of the route of the trucks, as at every opportunity the carriers direct their vehicles to Promachonas (Bulgaria-Greece border crossing) in order to avoid the queues at the Evzoni crossing point, given that crossing there operates 24/7 and tests are carried out by random sampling and not on every driver. An additional problem is the acquisition of a QR code which is mandatory for everyone in order to enter Greece; while carriers could previously request a QR code from one profile for each vehicle they own, now they have to open a profile for each driver so that they can register them, otherwise they will not be able to get the code. An additional problem lies in the fact that, if the vehicle has a double crew, approval can be given for only one and not for the second driver. This puts an additional burden on carriers with a larger number of vehicles from an administrative point of view,” says Makam-trans.

The Ministry of Transport and Communications said this issue is out of its jurisdiction. According to the report by “DENAR”, it informed that its responsibilities concern only the part of issuing the necessary permits for the work of transporters. The Customs Administration of North Macedonia reported that, immediately after the announcement of the measure for restricted entry of trucks in the territory of the southern neighbor, they responded and announced the information regarding the difficulties in their trucks crossing over. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs also requested clarifications on the situation and the problem escalated to the level of the CEFTA countries for which a meeting was held, while the European Commission was also informed.

“Measures for restricted entry of persons are part of the measures taken by the southern neighbor to address the pandemic, which include the limited opening hours of border crossings between 06: 00-18: 00 every day (07:00-19:00 Greek time), published in detail in the country’s official Government Gazette. The measure shall remain in place until March 23 of this year,” the Customs confirmed.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs responded immediately from day one at all levels: in the context of daily communication of our Embassy in Athens, directly between the competent Directorates in the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, while Minister Osmani also had a direct contact with Minister Dendias on this subject. In response to the ongoing contacts, the quota of the restriction was raised considerably to 400 persons, that is, for means of transport, trucks and tankers. Despite the still evident significant challenges, the situation improved significantly. Currently, the epidemiological situation in Greece is complicated due to the fact that the Greek government has introduced additional restrictions inside the country. Both Ministries are closely monitoring the situation and communication channels have been opened, and thus the possibilities for an even more significant increase of the quota are being examined as soon as the conditions allow,” the North Macedonia Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced.

Makam-trans reports that the fastest solution to normalize the situation in Evzoni is to operate the border crossing 24/7, employing more staff in the groups testing drivers. The carriers note that they were in contact with all the competent authorities in the country right from the beginning, stressing that they communicated their reaction to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Customs Administration, which are in constant coordination with the CEFTA Secretariat, and to the Secretariat of the Carriers Community, from where they report that reactions were also sent to the Greek government. The transporters from Macedonia (sic) have already had a meeting with representatives of the EU Delegation in Skopje and the result of the meeting was that the latter will advocate the operation of the so-called green corridors for faster flow at the border crossings. However, the final decision is left to the competent authorities in Greece, the article concludes. /ibna