Sofia Mayor Vows to Prevent Ski Lifts Closure Next Winter

Domestic | July 6, 2012, Friday // 11:04|  views

Mayor of Sofia, Yordanka Fandakova, says it would be unacceptable to not have skiing on Vitosha for another winter, as the company threatens. Photo by BGNES

The Sofia City Hall is going to approach legal experts to receive advice on possibilities to reexamine the concession contract of notorious Vitosha Ski company.

The news was reported by the Mayor of Sofia, Yordanka Fandakov, cited by the news agency BTA.

At the beginning of December 2011 Vitosha Ski refused to turn on lifts and other ski facilities on Vitosha, on the grounds texts from the Forestry Act are making the activity illegal.

The law mandated owners of such equipment and facilities to have an established "servitude" (a status for full-rights on the use of real estate) in order to clean and secure the lifts paths. Vitosha Ski was prevented from applying for it over them lacking an approved comprehensive development plan (PUB).

The company proposed a PUB for a new ski zone, but it was rejected because it included protected territories and because the environmental impact assessment was not done according to the rules. Vitosha Ski then attacked the decision of the Ministry of Environment and Waters in Court, but left their PUB unchanged.

During the public debates on the controversial amendments to the Forestry Act, the owner of Vitosha Ski, banker Tseko Minev that the ski lifts on Vitosha will remain closed during the next season as they did last winter, which outraged yet another time citizens, eco activists, and winter sports lovers.

They staged a mass protest rally Thursday with demands to the City Hall to reexamine Vitosha Ski's concession contract and annul it.

The Mayor now says it would be unacceptable to not have skiing on Vitosha for another winter, as the company threatens.

The municipal company "Ski Lifts" was privatized by Vitosha Ski in 2007 when current Prime Minister of Bulgaria, Boyko Borisov, was Mayor of Sofia. Three lifts in Vitosha were sold to Minev's business then.

Eco NGOs, citizens and journalists have requested on several occasions, citing the Access to Public Information Act, to see the contract, but the requests were declined on grounds the document was a trade secret.

At the beginning of the year, however, NGOs were able to obtain through their own channels a copy of the contract.

Several months ago, the City Hall issued a statement that they see no reasons to terminate it, but the environmentalists insist Vitosha Ski have violated several of its clauses.

Meanwhile, the concessionaire issued a declaration insisting that the participants are not environmentalists, but people representing "certain business interests" and that Vitosha Ski has fulfilled all commitments under the contract.

The company proceeds to explain that halting the ski lifts at the end of 2011 has been imposed only over current legislation.

"The residents and visitors of Sofia do not deserve this absurd situation, but we are not responsible about it. We do wish to resolve the problem by obeying the law and we, as owners and as citizens, are the last people who would want to not have ski activities on Vitosha. It is absurd to believe that it would be humanly and economically profitable for us to watch how for a year now the lifts are not functioning and our staff has nothing to do," the statement reads.

Thousands of Bulgarian eco activists and other citizens opposing the Forestry Act staged week-long protest rallies in the area of Orlov Most after the Parliament passed the amendments to the Act on June 13.

The following Saturday the President issued a veto on all of the texts, which was passed by the Parliament on June 27.

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Tags: Yordanka Fandakova, mayor, wildfire, tseko minev, FIB, veto, president, Rosen Plevneliev, Constitutional Court, For Keeping Nature in Bulgaria, NGO, Forestry Act, parliament, tourism, lifts, Vitosha, ski, Vitosha Ski, environmentalists, protected areas, Yulen, march, protest, rally, snowboarders, skiers, winter sports, lifts, tracks


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