Concrete Gains New Territory in Bulgaria – This Time in Rhodope Mountains

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A massive concrete structure is growing in the vicinity of Mount Perelik, Bivol’s readers have alerted and have sent pictures. The construction site is located on the road to the “Perelik” cabin, in the heart of the greenest part of the Rhodope, falling into Natura 2000.

The investor – “Perelik Infrastructure Company” – is building on farm land – a pasture whose status has not even been changed, showed a check by Bivol in the Cadaster. The proposal for the construction project has come from an important businessman and municipal councilor in the Rhodope city of Smolyan. The site is part of the Natura 2000 protected area. However, the construction has been approved by the Municipal Council – Smolyan and coordinated with the Regional Inspectorate for the Environment and Waters (RIEWs).

Concrete Gains New Territory in Bulgaria – This Time in Rhodope MountainsConcrete Gains New Territory in Bulgaria – This Time in Rhodope MountainsConcrete Gains New Territory in Bulgaria – This Time in Rhodope Mountains

In 2007, the Municipal Council in Smolyan adopted a Master Territorial Plan, which included the “Super Perelik” Ski Resort, but it was not built. In 2009, the decision on the Master Plan was revoked after the European Commission threatened Bulgaria with a lawsuit for breach of environmental legislation.

Like the Municipality of Tsarevo, where the “Silistar” scandal, revealed by Bivol, erupted this summer, the Smolyan Municipality (City Hall) does not have a Master Plan in force at the moment, and the approval of a piecemeal Detailed Territorial Plan should not be happening, even more without the necessary for a terrain in “Natura 2000″environmental impact assessment. But the current construction is a fact.

Who is building?

“Perelik Infrastructure Company” has a capital of BGN 110 million. “STTS Perelik” owns 64% of the shares and the Smolyan Municipality holds the remaining 36%. “Arexim” Ltd. of entrepreneur Kiril Assenov and “BK Projects”, which is owned by “Apostolov Partners” of Krasimir Apostolov and Rosen Apostolov are the shareholders in “Sports -Tourist Center Perelik”.

The manufacturer of plastic components for the auto industry “Arexim” is one of the big employers in the region of Smolyan. Kiril Assenov has partnered in this business with the German manufacturer “Kostal” through the local company “Kostal Bulgaria”. He is the winner of the “Burov” Foundation Entrepreneurship Award for 2017.

Through “STTS Perelik”, Assenov is also behind the failed project for the “Super Perelik” ski area, for which a first-class investor certificate was issued.

Besides business and investment, Assenov also engages in local politics. At the time when the construction on Perelik was approved by the Smolyan Municipal Council, he had been a municipal councilor from the CROSS party. The report for a decision for the preparation of a Detailed Territorial Plan has been submitted by the Mayor – Nikolay Melemov from the ruling party Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria (GERB) and has been adopted without any debate, with 23 votes in favor and one abstention. Still, Kiril Assenov has withdrawn from the vote and has not taken part in it, it is clear from the minutes from the meeting of the Municipal Council – Smolyan on June 29, 2017.

Following amendments to the Local Self-Government and Local Administration Act, which came into force on January 19, 2018, Assenov resigned because of a conflict of interest as he was, both, a municipal councilor and co-owner with the municipality in several companies.

Concrete “ranch”?

From the photos of the site, on can tell that this is massive construction with solid concrete columns. But its status is rather of a farm or ranch – a farm building on farmland. All this is dressed in legal form and has the necessary permits.

The Smolyan Municipality’s decision for the preparation of a Detailed Territorial Plan from June 29, 2017, refers to Ordinance 19 of the Ministries of Agriculture and of Regional Development and Public Works from 2012, allowing construction of agricultural buildings and housing premises without changing the status of the land. The investment proposal is actually for the construction of an agricultural building with premises for large-scale equipment. The total built-up area is 1,700 square meters and 340 square meters on two floors can be built on it.

It is odd that the Mayor signed the order for approval of the Detailed Territorial Plan on August 11, 2017, several months before the coordinate decision by the RIEWs, without which such a plan should not enter into force.

RIEWs Smolyan agreed to the Detailed Territorial Plan and allowed construction without an environmental impact assessment with a decision from November 8, 2017, with the opinion that the construction will not have a negative impact on the Natura 2000 protected area. On December 11., 2017, the Municipality issued a permit for the construction, which started in May this year.

However, there is no agricultural activity in the area whatsoever, and it is not clear what special heavy-duty agricultural machinery is required for these structures, which, as shown on the pictures, have massive concrete foundations.

On the other hand, with or without large-scale equipment, the loophole allowing to build living quarters without changing the status of the land remains.

“Super Perelik” – scandalous land swaps

“Sports -Tourist Center Perelik” was the company that a few years ago wanted to build the “Super Perelik” Ski Resort with golf courses, 217 km of ski runs, 16 artificial lakes for artificial snow and numerous hotels with a total capacity of over 25,000 beds. The project was presented as “green” and nature-friendly.

All this was supposed to be deployed on over 130,000 decares of land in the Natura 2000 site. The site constitutes of meadows and forests in the most beautiful places of the Rhodope Mountains, on the ridges and plateaus of Mursalitsa, the meadows on Mount Karlak and others. Assenov has acquired over 6,000 decares of them through land swaps, while the majority of these lands have been State-owned, according to the Coalition “For the Nature in Bulgaria”.

An investigation by the newspaper Sega looks at how the unprecedentedly large for Bulgaria swaps have been carried out and recalls that Kiril Assenov was the best man in the wedding of the former Deputy Minister of Ecology Lyubka Kachakova; he is a partner with the arms dealer Peter Mangzoukov, while the financing of the “Super Perelik” project is closely related to the businessmen and publisher Ivo Prokopiev.

At the time, Assenov denied any connection with Prokopiev when approached by Sega. But a check by Bivol reveals that the companies “Beta Services” with end-owner Ivo Prokopiev and “Arexim” of Kiril Assenov have been co-owners of the company “Eco Agro Projects” until the end of 2017.

It is remarkable that in 2007, Kiril Assenov declared before Dnevnik daily: “Together with the Smolyan Municipality, which is a minority partner in the “Super Perelik” project, we want to establish rules: no construction above 1,700 meters… We want to make the mountain more accessible, not a high-mountain extension of the city of Smolyan. ”

The current construction by “Perelik Infrastructure Company”, however, is in close proximity to the “Perelik” cabin, which is 1,870 meters above sea level.

The publication in Dnevnik has the features of an “advertorial” starting with the headline: “Super Perelik – the Gentle Future of the Rhodope Mountains”, and in the text, besides the words of praise, there are commendable words for the Smolyan Mayor at the time, Dora Yankova, who was a zealous supporter of the mega ski hub.

Bivol made several attempts to contact Kiril Assenov and the Smolyan Municipality for comment, but so far has not received answers.


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