Gevgelija, 22 July 2020 (MIA) – In comparison to this time last year, traffic frequency at the Bogorodica border crossing with Greece has reduced by almost 90%.
Commander Jasmina Avramska told MIA that since July 1, the day when Greek nationals were allowed to visit the country without any obstacles, only 11,818 Greeks crossed the border. On average, that’s 700 people a day – a true drop in comparison to the daily 8,000 that simply “invaded” Gevgelija on the weekends before the health crisis.
The results of the drop in the number of Greek tourists are devastating, not only to the local economy, but even on a larger scale, after only a few months since the outbreak of the coronavirus epidemic.
In casinos alone, where some estimates say that over a million Greeks gambled, leaving over EUR 5 million before the coronavirus crisis, fears of the disease contributed to a 50-70% drop in numbers. The worst case scenario from these numbers is that casino owners are considering laying off employees.
Alongside casinos, Greek visitors can’t be found in gas stations where there’s cheaper gas, they don’t frequent boutiques, restaurants, pharmacies, markets and cafes. They also don’t go to the dentists anymore, nor the city market on Thursdays.
The coronavirus fears and the reduction of their financial power are in essence the main reasons for the drastic drop in the number of Greeks who came to Gevgelija, but the fact that Greek media in the north of the country started saying again that their economy is weakening due to excessive shopping and gambling in North Macedonia and Gevgelija in particular, should not be neglected either.
Gevgelija’s citizens love saying that Gevgelija is a city of foreign investment, a phrase which may provide the best explanation for the influence of Greek tourists on the development of the local economy, but it has started losing its meaning since the start of the unrelenting corona-crisis. The city promenade looks as if there’s still a curfew, and the citizens of Gevgelija can’t recognize their own city anymore.
The only Greeks one can encounter in Gevgelija are those who permanently migrated to the city before the health crisis. However, judging by the Bogorodica border crossing’s estimates, the daily influx of Greeks won’t resume for a while.
The road to the border in Gevgelija is almost empty. The only people who can travel to Greece from North Macedonia are Greek citizens who work in EU countries, as well as those with regulated stay in Greece. Everyone else has to come in through Bulgaria.
The Evzoni border crossing remains closed until August 1 at least, but it’s open for those leaving Greece from this border crossing.
Translator: Dragana Knežević