Bulgarian Court Orders Belene NPP Reports of HSBC Declassified

Energy | August 19, 2013, Monday // 18:08|  views

Photo by BGNES

Bulgaria's Administrative Court Sofia City (ACSC) has ordered the government, the Ministry of Economy and Energy (MIET) and the Bulgarian Energy Holding (BEH) to declassify all analyses and evaluations of HSBC bank, the Bulgarian government consultant on the Belene Nuclear Power Plant project.

The lawsuit was initiated on the basis of a complaint by the National Movement for Stability and Progress (NDSV) party, Sega daily informs.

With a decision #5174 from July 24, 2013, the ACSC revoked the refusal of BEH to grant access to public information concerning all documents, assessments, and reports of HSBC bank on the economic terms of the construction of the Belene NPP.

BEH's refusal was explained with the fact that it was not a "body governed by public law"as defined by the Access to Information Act and that the requested information was confidential by virtue of the contract with the consultant.

The decision of the ACSC says that BEH EAD is bound to provide the requested piece of information which cannot be interpreted as manufacturing or commercial secret because there is "overwhelming public interest" in the disclosure of the information.

The decision of the court can be appealed.

If the decision is not appealed or is upheld by the court of cassation, it will be a fundamental change to the existing court practice, which does not treat BEH as a "body governed by public law" bound to provide information under the Access to Information Act.

According to NDSV, the step will remove the legal barrier used to protect the secrets in Bulgaria's energy sector.

Back in end-October 2012, NDSV asked the Prime Minister for permission to access public information concerning the documents, reports, and assessments of HSBC bank on the economic terms of the construction of the Belene N-plant.

The request for access to information was forwarded by the Council of Ministers to the Ministry of Economy and Energy (MIET), but the Ministry informed that it did not have the requested data, adding that the information could be found at BEH, as a result of which, the request was forwarded to BEH.

After launching a lawsuit against MIET, the NDSV party submitted a complaint with the ACSC over the refusal of BEH to provide access to public information about the HSBC record on the Belene NPP.

Bulgaria's formerly-ruling center-right Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria party, GERB, government scrapped the Belene project in March 2012, declaring it economically unfeasible.

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Tags: HSBC, Belene NPP, Nuclear Power Plant, Administrative Court Sofia City, Bulgarian Energy Holding, classified information, Access to Public Information Act


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