The Bulgarian caretaker government took advantage of March 3, the country’s national holiday, and the weekend following it, to sacrifice the National “Pirin” Park. With two surprising decrees on the eve of the holiday, the caretaker Minister of Environment and Waters, Irina Kostova, made a serious step towards building up the mountain, the Coalition “For the Nature in Bulgaria” alarmed.
With this, the caretaker government, appointed by new President Rumen Radev, exposed itself as even more anti-Bulgarian than the previous one and surpassed by far all of the latter’s outrages and criminal acts. The Minister, who probably will no longer be in office next month, demonstrated that her only interest is to serve murky oligarchic interests instead of preserving for future generations the precious and unique natural heritage of Bulgaria.
A poll, within the project “For the Balkan and the People”, conducted by a Bulgarian-Swiss program of cooperation, shows that 85% of Bulgarian respondents consider their country’s nature as the primary foundation for national identity.
With the authorized and legalized by the caretaker government further destruction of National “Pirin” Park, the current government puts a black stain on their names as enemies of Bulgarian nature and Bulgarian spirit. Such an administrative act goes beyond the unprecedented decision of the Sofia Administrative Court (SAC) from 10 years ago to close the Strandja Nature Park to legalize mafia construction on the southern Black Sea coast. This unleashed widespread public discontent, giving the start of what is now known as the movement “Eagle Bridge Protests” (named after a key intersection in downtown Sofia – editor’s note) that toppled the then-government. Irina Kostova’s decisions are in breach of the law and open the “back door” for the long-lasting attempts of the owners of “Yulen” and First Investment Bank (FIB) to take hold of the world natural heritage of the National Park to develop ski tourism, serving their own business interests. Bivol has revealed in a series of investigations that precisely theses oligarchs are hiding behind a dummy Cypriot “proxy” – Georgios Georgiou. This destitute Nicosia resident is, however, on paper the largest investor in Bulgaria with over a billion levs in capital. /see here/
We can only imagine the nightmare picture after the invasion of the mafia oligarchs – surely this will no longer be a park or anything national.
Here is what the bed of the river Glazne looks like – plowed by the bulldozers of the current concessionaire in the park – “Yulen”.
On March 1, Kostova ruled that there is no need for an environmental assessment of the new draft plan for the management of the National Park.
Besides being absurd, this decision is contrary to the laws of the country, such as the Environmental Protection Act and the Biological Diversity Act that clearly state when an environmental assessment is required.
However, the Ministry now decided that there is no need of assessment as “a significant negative impact on the environment and human health is unlikely”.
Is this so, given that the draft plan allows construction on an area 12.5 times larger than the current one, as well as industrial logging and felling on over 60% of the territory of the National Park (compared to the current 0%)? This means only one thing – apocalypse in Pirin and destruction of a unique natural landmark and a World Heritage Site.
Moreover, the Ministry of Environment and Waters trampled the decision of the World Heritage Committee of UNESCO from the summer of last year. At its annual meeting in Istanbul, the Committee unequivocally adopted mandatory environmental assessment and an assessment of compatibility with the objectives of Natura 2000 for the new plan for Pirin.
To make the situation even more absurd, on March 2, at the end of the last workday of the week, Minister Kostova signed a new decree, providing advance implementation of her own decision from the previous day, limiting the opportunities for expression of civic opinion and independent institutions such as the courts.
Kostova grounded the move on the need to have her decision enter into force as soon as possible “in order to protect vital State and public interests and ensure the wellbeing or health of citizens”.
The Coalition “For the Nature in Bulgaria” asks – how would an environmental assessment endanger the wellbeing or health of citizens? And what are these State and public interests, which the Minister claims to defend, given that nearly 70,000 people have already sent emails to caretaker Prime Minister Ognyan Gerdzikov, requesting to not adopt the new draft plan in its present form? The initiative is ongoing at wwf.bg/pirin.
Pending the adoption of a new management plan, the old one, which provides significantly greater protection of the nature in Pirin, remains in force. The haste to issue new decrees just before the holidays can be explained only by a desire to conceal oligarchic and corrupt interests from the public.
The situation reminds of the government’s actions in neighboring Romania in adopting overnight a decree on amnesty for corrupt politicians, hoping the society will not notice. We all know what followed. We call on Minister Kostova and the caretaker government to immediately reconsider their controversial decisions on such an important issue for Bulgarians.
This post is also available in: Bulgarian