Bulgaria’s Four Party Coalition Continues to Destroy Nature for the Benefit of the Oligarchy

The government prepares swift expansion of the ski areas of Bansko and Vitosha in areas that are protected only on paper
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The coalition of NGOs and civic groups “For the Nature in Bulgaria” received signals about future extension of the Bansko ski zone in the Pirin National Park, and the Aleko ski zone in the Vitosha Nature Park, swiftly prepared by the government.

Last week, the government publicly announced that it was terminating the procedure for extension of the Bansko ski area, prepared and signed in secret by the Socialist-endorsed government of Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski literally in the last minutes of its term in office.

At the same time, the current government says it will issue on February 15 its own decision on the concession in the Bansko ski area, which has an area that is 60% larger than the one allowed under the contract, rather than terminating the concession and sanctioning those responsible for not adhering to the set boundaries.

A special decision of the Council of Ministers requires examining “the problems associated with a contract for concession in the protected area”.

We remind that the concessionaire of the Bansko ski zone “Yulen” JSC noticed “problems in the contract” after the Ministry of Environment and Waters (MEW) proved by surveying in 2011 that the concessionaire is using a much larger area than what was contracted.

MEW agreeing that instead of “violations” it also saw “problems” in the contract is a cause for concern. This is also demonstrated by an analysis of the contract made by the MEW at the end of last week. The analysis is intended to imply that there is confusion between the area of the concession and the area in the territorial development plan of the Bansko ski zone from 2001. According to the coalition “For the Nature in Bulgaria” these areas are perfectly and clearly defined.

On top of that, the Chairman of the Parliamentary Group of the ruling party Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria (GERB), Tsvetan Tsvetanov, said last week in Bansko that he supported the development of second cabin lift in the ski area, something that he and his fellow party members also stated in 2012, months before resigning and leaving office.

The Sofia City Hall also stepped up recently to change its general territorial development plan to facilitate the extension of the Aleko ski zone in the Vitosha Nature Park, which falls on the territory of the Sofia municipality.

Meanwhile, various Ministries organized this week meetings with non-governmental organizations related to the development of skiing in Bulgaria. The fear is that such meetings are usually presented by politicians as public dialogue, but the existence of a prior political decision turns these meetings into a cover-up for the dirty backstage deals between the power and the oligarchic circles.

For example, investment plans for the expansion of the Bansko ski area are not based on any market research or on the employment in the hotels in Bansko, which is below 25% on annual basis, or on climate changes which are obvious to all. They will not create sustainable jobs in Bansko, where all seasonal workers migrate in the spring and in the summer, the environmentalists remind.

The coalition “For the Nature in Bulgaria” also reminds that the National Park Pirin and the Vitosha Nature Park are primarily protected areas. What can happen in them depends on legal restrictions and to some extent on their management plans, which are ordered and approved by the government.

There is currently an ongoing update of both management plans that is done with the money of European and Bulgarian taxpayers, of all of us. The plans are produced by a company close to the Bulgarian bank owner, who, in reality, also owns the ski areas of Bansko and Aleko. His bank received twice a financial injection of one billion levs of taxpayers’ money in order to be kept liquid.

The Coalition “For the Nature in Bulgaria” insists that every step related to the future of the natural heritage in Pirin and Vitosha be made in the most transparent and law-abiding manner. It is unacceptable for public funds to be used by the oligarchic circles and for the felling and construction in protected Bulgarian nature that belongs to all citizens.



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