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Greek cow violates, disregards, meanders over Turkish border

July 27, 2009

Here’s a story of Greek-Turkish immigration gone awry …

Marika, a Greek cow, makes headlines in Turkey

A COUPLE of weeks ago (neither Greek nor Turkish press accounts give an exact date but sometime before 16 July),  a Greek cow grazed away from its owner in the northeastern border town of Kastanies and now finds itself days away from an appointment with a  Turkish butcher block due to diplomatic restrictions.

Turkish soldiers “remanded” the cow, named Marika, after it “waded” through the Arda River, which is apparently low or nonexistent this time of year. Turkish officials then placed the cow in quarantine where they can hold it for 21 days before returning the cow or slaughtering it. If the cow is healthy, the meat will be sold and the profit returned to the owner minus the cost of feeding the cow in captivity.

For his part, the cow’s owner, Vasilis Metakidis, 38, requested the cow’s return and presented the cow’s passport in Turkey. Mustafa Büyük, the governor of Edirne (the area where the cow wandered), told the Turkish newspaper Zaman on July 17 that Turkish authorities would like to repatriate the “illegal” cow but that Greece has been “unhelpful”. The Turks apparently called the Greeks and no one picked up. Apparently, cows can go from Greece to Turkey freely, but European Union regulations prohibit a cow, even one with a passport, from re-entering the Union.

The cow traveling from Greece to Turkey is illegal, Büyük said. We’ve notified the Greek authorities that we can return the cow, but so far we’ve received no response. The regional agriculture directorate has put the cow into quarantine. If it is not taken back when its quarantine is complete, then it will become state property, and the resolution of this case will be determined accordingly.

Metakidis, the farmer, told the Turkish press that he is concerned about the cow’s recently born calf, who will likely die without its mother’s milk.

When asked for comment, a source at the Greek foreign ministry said they’ve found the story in the press amusing, but have been more concerned with Aegean airspace and developments in Fyrom than Marika’s immigration status.

DAMOMAC Attack: Milking the story in the Turkish press

Vasilis Metakidis, the cows owner

Vasilis Metakidis, the cow's owner

Sections of the Turkish press rushed to cover the story, which provided a convenient distraction from the ongoing incursions of Turkish military aircraft into Greece’s Aegean airspace and the lax controls on migrants leaving Turkish territory to enter Greece illegally.

The story of the bovine border transgressor was first raised, on July 16, in Yeni Şafak (Google translation here), a conservative daily known for its close relations with the ruling Justice and Development Party. In an article titled “Cows do not recognise the border”, the tabloid told readers that the animal was apprehended by Turkish soldiers after it wandered over the River Arda, which marks the border between the two countries, into a restricted zone, near the town of Karaağaç.

It claimed that the cow was placed into 21-day quarantine after a written request to the Greek authorities to retrieve it went unheeded.

The next day, on July 17, the story made into online English-language Today’s Zaman, the English-language expression of conservative Islamist Zaman. Under the heading “Greek cow violates Turkish border”, the article spoke of the “unexpected case of a cow traveling from its hometown in Greece across the Turkish border”.

Previous animal intrusions

Marika is not the first animal to wander “illegally” into a northern Greek neighbouring state. In October 1925, a dog belonging to a Greek soldier wandered over the border into Bulgaria. When the soldier tried to retrieve him, he was shot by Bulgarian border sentries. The incident, which became known as the War of the Stray Dog,  resulted in Greek demands for compensation and a minor incursion by Greek forces into Bulgaria.

And in 2009, there seems to be little interest in a war over a stray cow.

(Report: George Mesthos, with some hardcore diplomatic and press analysis by Damomac)

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