by Simon Black: Boiling
Frog Alert: Congress Wants Automatic Wage Deductions to Pay Down
Can you imagine
being trapped inside your home country, unable to leave? It may
be closer to a reality than you realize. I’ll tell you a quick
story to explain.
I rented a car in Bulgaria with the aim of driving through Serbia,
Kosovo, Macedonia, and eventually into Greece. Now, I’m no
virgin to land border crossings in the developing world and understand
the corruption and incompetence that typifies customs checkpoints.
But this weekend’s experience was much more.
in hand, I drove to my first border crossing in Strezimirovci, Bulgaria.
After clearing customs on the Bulgarian side, the Serbian officers
decided that they would not allow me to enter with the normal papers,
and instead required that I obtain another customs form to proceed.
they had no such customs form at their station, so they turned me
around and sent me to another border check point in Kalotina, over
an hour away.
The road from
Strezimirovci to Kalotina skirts the Serbian border for a large
part of the drive– quite literally, on one side of the road
is Serbia, and on the other is Bulgaria. It’s all part of the
same landscape with no discernable difference… these are just
invisible lines guarded by gun-toting monkeys.
When I arrived
to Kalotina, I found the ‘office’ where I was supposed
to obtain the new document– just a simple, roadside concession
stand. The ‘agent’ was the shop’s proprietor, a chain-smoking
Serbian woman with rather mannish features.
Once I paid
the appropriate fee, she spent the next 10 minutes hacking at her
keyboard to produce an official looking Cyrillic document with lots
of stamps and seals.
While I was
waiting for her to finish, four different customers came into the
shop to stock up on snacks and drinks. All they wanted was a cold
one for the road, but they eventually got tired of waiting and left.
customers represented potential transactions that could have contributed
something to the economy. Instead, though, they were preempted by
an unnecessary bureaucracy that adds absolutely no value whatsoever.
the Serbian customs agent barely glanced at the form when I crossed
the border this time. Finally on Serbian soil, I pointed my car
still pretends like Kosovo is part of its sovereign territory, and
Serbian police are under strict instructions to make the immigration
checkpoint on the Kosovo border as painful as possible.
line at the checkpoint was backed up so much that it took several
hours to pass. All along the way, there was not a single bathroom,
vending machine, fuel station, or even street light. It’s obvious
that they want to incovenience travelers to the point that people
will think twice before visiting Kosovo again.