Protests are growing against the decision by the Borissov cabinet to open construction of tourist facilities in the Pirin national park. The developments are highlighting the mysterious ways the country works as it takes the rotating presidency of the Council of the EU.
Yesterday (28 December) Borissov’s cabinet took a decision which runts counter its own efforts to calm down the country politically during its EU stint.
Borissov wanst no trouble during the Bulgarian Presidency. But it was him who put into the cabinet agenda a vote to build a second ski lift in Bansko, as it always happens, his proposal was accepted. The development took place following a meeting of the PM with the United Patriots, a nationalist force that has consistently advocated the Bansko development in favour of the business community against the environmentalists.
Bulgarian nationalists, a minority partner in the Borissov cabinet, have lately exchanged their traditional rhetoric against lobbying for the highest bidder from the business community.
Borissov said that the plans will not entail any further hotel and housing construction. Far from being reassured, environmentalists said that the project will lead to logging and construction over half of the territory of the national park.
The first protest of the environmentalists blocked the “Orolov most” (Eagle’s bridge) entrance into Sofia, just few hours after the decision was announced. The protests continue right now for a second day, under the banned “Citizens against the mafia”.
World Wide Fund for Europe – Bulgaria expressed dismay that the government’s decision took place a day after public consultations over the project, which were inconclusive.
In a statement, WWF Bulgaria calls the cabinet decision “surreptitious” and “alarming”. It says that the changes to the Pirin National Park management plan would allow construction in up to 48% of the park, a World Heritage site home to bears, chamois, wolves and centuries-old pine forests.
WWF and other NGOs of the For the Nature coalition have filed a lawsuit with the Supreme Administrative Court of Bulgaria in March 2017 following a decision by the environment and water ministry’s decision that the new draft management plan would not require a Strategic Environmental Impact Assessment.
“The new draft management plan for Pirin National Park is bad and highly contentious, but the changes to the current management plan are worse. The draft plan, for example, envisages construction on an area that is 12.5 times larger than the currently permitted area while the changes to the current plan open up 80 times more area for construction,” said Katerina Rakovska, protected areas expert, WWF-Bulgaria.
According to WWF, a letter sent by the Bansko Ski Zone concessioner Yulen AD as part of the public consultation for the new draft management plan, seen by WWF, outlined intentions for enlarging the ski zone to 333 km of runs and 113 km of ski lifts. While the current management plan only allows for construction in 0.6% of the park’s territory, with the new changes approved yesterday, such an extension could now be possible.
In November 2016, WWF launched an international campaign in support of Pirin National Park to highlight the importance of the site to people in Bulgaria and globally. Currently, over 108,000 people have signed the petition, urging PM Borissov to protect the World Heritage site and its pristine wildlife.
Pirin is part of the EU’s Natura 2000 network.