When Foreign Minister George Gerapetritis told the informal EU Foreign Affairs Council, held, for symbolic reasons, in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv Monday, that Greece is ready to provide an alternative route for Ukrainian wheat and other cereals through its northern ports of Thessaloniki and Alexandroupoli, it did not come out of the blue but reflects a plan that the government has already discussed with its EU partners and countries outside the bloc.
The Turkey-brokered agreement to export Ukrainian cereals through the country’s Black Sea ports has collapsed, although diplomats prefer to call it “frozen.” A lot of backroom activity is devoted to finding alternatives, because Ukraine is vital to the global supply of cereals.
Greece has been engaged in talks in Brussels as well as the UK, which has an important role in decision-making over Ukraine. The plan that has been hashed out calls for transporting the produce by train via Romania and Bulgaria to Thessaloniki and Alexandroupoli.
Greek-owned commercial ships will play a very important role in transporting the grain, as they did when exports through the Black Sea were possible.
But while the two Greek ports can host the ships needed to transport the grain, there are capacity limitations in the rail network in northern Greece. At least it was spared the damage inflicted further south, in the region of Thessaly, by the recent floods.
Implementing the plan may also serve as an incentive to speed up needed railway upgrades, such as the line from Alexandroupoli to Ormenio, the last station before Bulgaria, and very close to the Turkish border, as well.
Source : Ekathmerini