The coalition of NGOs and civil groups "Let the Nature Remain in Bulgaria" received a copy of a letter, signed by the mayors of several municipalities in South-Western Bulgaria. It requests from the Parliament and the Government to breach a number of European directives, related to the protection of the environment. Their objective is to ensure an opportunity for bypassing the rules, in order to build without any control ski-runs, golf courses and spa centres in their municipalities.
The letter is dated 12th September 2013, but it is still not clear if it has actually been sent to the chairman of the parliament – member of the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), the Prime Minister and several other ministers. It has been signed by the mayors of Samokov, Dolna Banya, Kyustendil, Sapareva Banya, Rila, Kocherinovo, Boboshevo, Dupnitsa, Bankso, Razlog etc.
The mayors, whose proposal hardly manages to conceal the interests of the shareholders of a certain bank and a concessioner of the Bansko Ski Area, insist that 10% of the national and nature parks, as well as the area, included in the European Ecological Network Natura 2000, should be released for development, at the discretion of “investors“ in order to develop summer and winter sports and tourism.
Such a request clearly shows a complete lack of knowledge of the Bulgarian and European legislation, which not only prohibits the existence of such quotas, but their potential establishment would result in penal procedures against Bulgaria. The mayors should not that for a much lower percentage of damage to the protected area Kaliakra – part of the European Ecological Network Natura 2000, proceedings have been initiated against Bulgaria at the European Court of Justice. The Natura 2000 regulations do not actually prohibit any development, but only introduce certain requirements for evaluation and protection.
The mayors also insist that the ski runs in the forest areas should continue to be listed as forests in any applicable registers, so that it is not necessary to change the method of use of the land. The result is that the future owner of the newly constructed ski areas will be saved some costs and expenses, for he will not have to pay the relevant local taxes and fees.
In essence, these requests are just the next step in the attempts to protect the interests of the oligarchs, through amendments to the Bulgarian legislation, contrary to the public interest. These are the same attempts and interests, which made the public opinion explode and lead to the blockades of the Orlov Most junction in 2012.
The "Let the Nature Remain in Bulgaria" coalition insists that the National Audit office performs a focused inspection of the municipalities with winter tourism, regarding the collection of the “Structures” tax, with respect to the ski runs, because we have received certain information, indicating that at least in a part of the municipalities, no such tax is collected, thus resulting in millions of BGN in savings for several companies.
The "Let the Nature Remain in Bulgaria" coalition is deeply concerned, about the increasing influence, which the oligarchic structures and individuals exercise on the Bulgarian mayors. The town rulers, supposedly elected by their townsmen to govern their towns sustainably and to the best public interest, become hostages of private interests and attempts to usurp public goods.
This letter also clearly shows the deformation of the decentralization of the local governments in the past few years, involving a complete failure to follow the national and European legislation, and the municipalities have turned into a symbol of corruption pressure, exercised by local barons and oligarchs.
The "Let the Nature Remain in Bulgaria" coalition calls to the signing mayors to stop trusting offshore companies with unknown sources of their capitals, which evidently work against the achievement of a sustainable development of the mountain regions and against the interests of the local communities, in order to avoid the withdrawal and cancelation of European or national programs and subsidies for these municipalities.
The mayors also request the establishment of mechanisms for compensations in case if inclusion of land in the protected areas within Natura 2000. The coalition generally supports such a request, reminding, however, that compensations for the private agricultural owners of land, situated within protected areas, under the EC Birds Directive, are currently being paid and it has been so for years, and therefore it is strange that the local governments are unaware of that.
Unfortunately for 6 years now, the political parties, supporting these mayors, have been failing to do anything to announce the protected areas, according to the EC’s Habitats Directive and just keep extending the legal deadlines for the announcement of such areas. The European Principle, that only existing limitations are compensated, and the lack of any orders in Bulgaria, prevent the agricultural and forest land owners from receiving compensations, related to Natura 2000.
The "Let the Nature Remain in Bulgaria" coalition reminds that currently some media provide the means for a severe campaign for freeing from blame the ones destroying the Bulgarian economy and nature and protecting oligarchic and offshore interests. These media are close to the circles, against which numerous citizens have been protesting every night in the past few months.
This media PR and mayors’ letter are a part of the general campaign, warns the "Let the Nature Remain in Bulgaria" coalition.