Bulgaria: Protesters invade Sofia during EU Council Presidency ceremony

Written by on January 12, 2018 in Bulgaria - Comments Off on Bulgaria: Protesters invade Sofia during EU Council Presidency ceremony

Protesters in Sofia used the big day of the opening ceremony for Bulgaria’s EU Council Presidency to get their messages across in several protests. While the ceremony with international VIP guests was still going on a kilometer down the street, they demanded the salvation of Pirin National Park. That was one of several demonstrations.

On Boulevard Dondukov in the centre of Sofia, fourteen trams on lines 20 and 22 were stuck. They just stood there in a long line, waiting for thousands of protesters to leave the boulevard into Raikovski Street.

This was one of several protests which took place yesterday. The participants demanded an end to ambitions, which would extend the Bansko skiing resort into Pirin National Park. The latter is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Fourteen trams were stuck, due to the protests.

They say, an extension the government has approved would likely open the way for large-scale logging and construction in Pirin, and believe any such steps would endanger the pine trees in the park, and nature in general.

It wasn’t the first protest of the kind. Just a week earlier, thousands had walked the streets of Sofia, while blocking the traffic in the capital. They said Pirin was not a Banitsa, a greasy Bulgarian bread roll with feta cheese, which people could just cut up the way they wanted to.

To the members of what has become a movement against that skiing resort expansion, the plans to cut into the park have to do with corruption. Therefore, some of them chanted “End the corruption!” and “Stop the mafia!”

Some protesters wanted to save Pirin National Park. Others wanted an expansion of a skiing resort.

But these protesters were not the only ones who walked the streets of Sofia on a busy day for the Bulgarian capital. There also was a smaller demonstration in favour of the skiing resort expansion.

On top of that, police officers demanded better pay in a separate protest. The base salary for a policeman is less than 700 leva, or some 340 euro per month, which is the lowest in the EU. That kind of salary level can be found in Third World countries as well.

In spite of a meeting representatives of a police union had with Prime Minister Boiko Borissov in the early morning, during which he promised a 100 million leva pay boost for those on the payroll of the Ministry of the Interior, the union decided to go ahead with the protest.

During the big day in Sofia, there were a total of nine protests.

Photos by Imanuel Marcus.

 

European Commission, Bulgarian government to hold joint session on January 12

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About the Author

Imanuel Marcus is Associate Editor of The Sofia Globe. He is German and lives in Sofia. Contact: imanuelmarcus (at) gmail.com