Yesterday, at the Bagratashen border crossing between Armenia and Georgia, I witnessed the following bizarre scenario.
I took us only 15 minutes to pass through the Georgian check point. It took us an hour and 15 minutes to get through the Armenian side. I wanted to find out why.
“Can you tell me why you are torturing Armenian citizens who want to get back into Armenia?” I asked one of the Armenian border guards.
“Hey, there are lines over on the Georgian side as well. Why don’t you mention that,” was the response I got.
I told him I was a journalist and asked about all those 18 wheelers, loaded down with tons of cargo, parked on the bridge.
“Aren’t you concerned that the bridge might collapse under all that weight? Isn’t it a violation?”
The Armenian border guard said that there was an agreement with the Georgians to let the trucks pass in slow order, but that the Georgians waved them through all at once.
“No”, I said. “The Georgians let them pass in staggered fashion. The back-up is the result of the Armenian side.”
“Fine, but what can I do. There are inspectors here from the Presidential Control Service. Go talk to them,” the Armenian border official answered.
That’s exactly what I did.
The Control Service employee was standing right in the middle of the crossing. His presence didn’t seem to be making any difference.
I walked up to him and asked the same question – Why the backlog on the Armenian side?
He looked puzzled. “What about the wait on the Georgian side?” he asked.
I told him that I wasn’t interested about what the Georgians were doing.
“Listen, I’m concerned about what my country Armenia is doing here.”
This is the second time I’ve made the trip to Georgia and I went through the same experience the last time.
I mean the road traffic wasn’t what you’d call abnormally heavy.
It just seems to me that our Armenian border officials are either lazy or work very slowly.
I reminded of construction scenes on the streets of Yerevan. There’s one guy digging with a shovel and ten “bosses” standing around watching him.
Who’s in charge of fixing the mess?
I mean if the government still can’t operate a border crossing normally after all these years, how in the heck can they run an entire country in a manner resembling “normalcy” in its most liberal of definitions?
Armenian citizens trying to make their way back to Armenia are frustrated and frazzled even before setting foot in the homeland.
That 1 hour and 15 minute wait at the border will do the trick hands down.