Bulgaria's Controversial Forestry Act Talks at Stalemate

Environment | June 18, 2012, Monday // 14:46|  views

The Council of Ministries building in downtown Sofia where the office of the Prime Minister is located. File photo

Bulgarian environmentalists, the business and those in power failed Monday to reach agreement about the controversial Forestry Act.

The meeting between eco activists and Members of the Parliament from the ruling, center-right party Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria, GERB, was held in the office of Prime Minister, Boyko Borisov.

Agriculture Minister, Miroslav Naydenov, said that despite the inconclusive end there was some convergence of positions on the draft.

The eco activists insist that construction activities in the mountains should require payment of a fee for the change of the status of use of the land, which continues to be the main hurdle for the agreement.

The environmentalists have agreed Monday that the land used for the construction of ski facilities remains State property as one of the passed amendments they oppose postulates. They, however, have requested the introduction of an administrative fee for the temporary change of the status of use of the said land. In this case, the investor must also pay a fee for ceded construction rights after winning a public bid.

Filip Tsanov from the "Nature for People and Regions" coalition – a staunch supporter of the amendments and the new Act, firmly opposed the proposal, saying this would be similar to purchasing an apartment that must be returned back for free after 30 years.

The negotiations are continuing over the next days with the added participation of representatives of the National Association of Municipalities in Bulgaria.

Desislava Taneva, GERB MP and Chair of the Parliamentary Agriculture Committee, stated that the GERB Parliamentary group will back the veto of President, Rosen Plevneliev, imposed on the entire Forestry Act 2 days ago, and the texts will be returned for first reading.

She vowed the Bill will not be passed into a law until full consensus between all interested parties is reached, actually reiterating Borisov's earlier statements.

Thousands of Bulgarian nature lovers and other citizens opposing the Forestry Act have been staging protest rallies in the area of the key intersection of Orlov Most (Eagles Bridge) in Sofia ever since Wednesday evening. On Sunday they went to the location to plant flowers after being accused by Interior Minister, Tsvetan Tsvetanov, of destroying the nearby green areas in the central Borisova Gradina park.

About 500 people from the winter resorts of Bansko and Razlog gathered Sunday near the town of Simitli in a rally backing the amendments to the Forestry Act, passed by the Parliament last Wednesday.

The protest, widely-believed to be staged by the "Nature for People and Regions" coalition funded by notorious businessman Tseko Minev, was staffed by several hundred citizens from the mountainous Blagoevgrad region.

It lasted about 40 minutes, while the E-79 road to Greece was blocked for about 20. Lyuben Tatarski, MP from GERB, was at the helm of the blockade.

Another counter-protest was held Monday with a blockade of E-79 by the people from the towns of Dupnitsa and Sapareva Banya. The blockade lasted about 15 minutes.

The Mayor of Simitli, Apostol Apostolov, declared the Sunday rally illegal, saying the demonstrators were paid to attend, bused to the location, and guarded by police who beat people at other protests.

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