After a day of protests that saw thousands of people in 15 Bulgarian cities and towns express indignation against high bills for electricity and heating, Economy, Energy and Tourism Minister Delyan Dobrev said on February 11 2013 that all state institutions involved in some way with energy issues were investigating the reasons for the sums in the bills.
On February 11, Dobrev was pelted with snow in Sofia, Plovdiv-headquartered power distribution company EVN announced that two of its company cars had been burnt out the previous night, and in at least two cities, people involved with the protests were arrested after clashes with police.
While organisers of the protests deny any political connection, their demands – expulsion of the three foreign-owned power distribution companies and nationalisation of the firms – coincide strongly with demands by some opposition parties in Bulgaria.
In Plovdiv, local media said that protests would continue today. In other cities and towns, protesters vowed to continue their campaigns.
Dobrev said that his ministry and the State Energy and Water Regulatory Commission were among the institutions that would conduct the checks.
He said that all complaints to the ministry and the commission would be referred to the Bulgarian Institute of Metrology for electricity meters to be checked.
According to Dobrev, reasons for the high electricity bills include the metering period being longer because of the December holidays, the 14 per cent electricity price increase that took effect in July 2012, low temperatures and the higher number of non-working days that meant that people were at home.
Dobrev held an emergency meeting with heads of power distribution companies on February 10.
The commission said that its checks of the electricity distribution companies and Toplofikatsiya Sofia heating company would take about 10 days to complete.
In parallel, some minority politicians are suggesting that there are financial irregularities and corruption in Bulgaria’s energy sector.
On February 11, Yane Yanev, a minority party leader and chairperson of Parliament’s special committee on high-level corruption, was to meet Prosecutor-General Sotir Tsatsarov to discuss aspects of this alleged corruption in the energy sector.
Against a background of Bulgaria heading to national parliamentary elections, expected to be held in early July 2013, the issue has been seized on by opposition parties. On February 10, socialist leader Sergei Stanishev said that high electricity costs were the consequence of government rejection of the Belene nuclear power station project.
The socialist party previously called for termination of the privatisation contracts with the electricity distribution companies.
Dobrev said that the call by the socialists would win them praise from North Korea.
(Photo: Thomas Bush/sxc.hu)