Environmentalists Ask Sofia Mayor to Undo Privatization of Ski Lifts in Vitosha

Environment | July 4, 2012, Wednesday // 16:24|  views

Winter sports fans living in Sofia are about to spend a second season with non-functioning ski facilities in the Vitosha Mountain. Photo by BGNES

Bulgarian environmental activists have urged Sofia Mayor Yordanka Fandakova to terminate the privatization contract for the ski lifts in the Vitosha Mountain with the notorious Vitosha Ski company.

The demands came after Bulgarian businessman Tseko Minev, President of the Bulgarian Ski Federation, announced Tuesday that the ski lifts in Vitosha would not function for a second winter season in a row due to a set of revoked and highly-controversial amendments to the Forestry Act facilitating the construction of ski facilities.

Andrey Kovachev, speaking on behalf of the Bulgarian Greens party, urged the Sofia Mayor to terminate the privatization contract through which the company acquired the ski lifts in Simeonovo and Dragalevtsi from the Sofia Municipality.

Kovachev, as cited by dnevnik.bg, insisted that the contract had to be terminated due to the fact that Vitosha Ski was failing to implement it.

The Co-Chair of the Greens party reminded that citizens of Sofia would end up blackmailed and deprived of a ski season for a second year in a row.

The privatization contract for municipal company Vazheni Linii, which was bought for BGN 8.3 M by Vitosha Ski in 2008, requires the buyer to keep the company's activity for a period of 25 years.

In end-2011, when Vitosha Ski said that it would stop the ski lifts near Sofia until the promulgation of a set of legal amendments it had demanded, the Sofia Municipality and the Sofia Municipal Privatization Agency explained that the company was not breaching the contract.

Petar Petrov from Vitosha Ski argued that retaining the company's activity did not entail the ski lifts remaining operational.

In their Wednesday statement, Bulgarian environmental activists criticized claims of Agriculture Minister Miroslav Naydenov that the cancellation of the Forestry Act amendments would discourage any potential investors in ski resorts.

The cancelled provisions, which caused several days of mass protests and road blocks in the Bulgarian capital, provide for a simplified procedure for building ski facilities without a change of land use, i.e. without excluding the territories from the state's forest fund.

"Minister Naydenov keeps saying that the existing Forestry Act provides unaffordable fees for investors. However, the tariff is approved through an ordinance bearing his very own signature. Therefore, if somebody finds the fees are too high, they should approach the Minister, rather than Parliament," lawyer Svilen Ovcharov from the "Green Advocates" association commented.

Ovcharov drew attention to the fact that the fees for excluding territories from the state forest fund were high for all types of investors, not only ski resort entrepreneurs.

He argued that if the fees were to be amended, they had to apply to all types of investments, rather than a certain kind.

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Tags: Vitosha Ski, Vitosha mountain, ski lift, tseko minev, Bulgarian Ski Federation, protests, Forestry Act, Agriculture Minister, Miroslav Naydenov, privatization, Sofia Mayor, Yordanka Fandakova, Sofia Municipality


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