Clashes between police, protesters in Sofia as thousands protest in Bulgarian cities against electricity companies

There were clashes between police and protesters in the Bulgarian capital city Sofia on February 17 2013 as police blocked access to the headquarters of electricity distribution company CEZ, while thousands turned out in protests in several other Bulgarian cities and towns to campaign against electricity distribution “monopolies”.

National controversy about the power firms erupted after many electricity consumers across the country saw their December 2012 bills jump, in some cases by multiples of previous bills.

Countrywide protests began on February 10 and continued through the week, to varying degrees, but hit a new peak on February 17.

In Sofia, after police blocked the way to the CEZ building, protesters pelted police with stones, bottles and other objects. Public broadcaster Bulgarian National Television said that one of its journalists was injured in the incident.

The building of centre-right minority party the Union of Democratic Forces also was pelted with bottles and stones.

After the attempt to reach CEZ was thwarted, the protesters, numbering more than 1000, moved on towards the office of the Presidency, having earlier stopped at Parliament. The National Assembly building was protected by police and metal fencing, but protesters hurled tomatoes, bananas, apples and firework squibs at it.

Bulgarian-language media quoted protesters as calling for the immediate resignation of the government and an end to monopolies in the energy sector, at heating utilities and water supply operators.

In Bulgaria’s second city, Plovdiv, more than 7000 people protested outside the building of power distribution company EVN. The protesters booed, shouted slogans and tore up photographs of Bulgarian politicians, including Prime Minister Boiko Borissov, opposition socialist MPs and former cabinet ministers Roumen Ovcharov and Roumen Petkov, and former European Commissioner Meglena Kouneva, who aspires to membership of Parliament in elections scheduled for July 2013.

Reporting from Plovdiv, local news agency Focus said that young people were holding up posters of Bulgaria’s liberation struggle hero Vassil Levski, saying that they were descendants of great Bulgarians and would not be humiliated.

Protests are scheduled to continue in Plovdiv in the next week.

In Bulgaria’s Black Sea city of Varna, about 8000 people occupied the square in front of Varna’s landmark cathedral. Police prevented the movement of traffic in central parts of the city.

In the town of Pazardzhik, protesters decapitated a model of a three-headed dragon representing the three power distribution companies, EVN, CEZ and Energo Pro. The protesters, reported by Focus to number more than 2500, chanted “down with EVN – let us bury it”.

In the town of Sliven, protesters pelted the EVN head office with eggs, chanted “Mafia” and “Monopolists out” and held up posters reading “We will not pay racketeers”. In another town, Shoumen, more than 3000 people protested, chanting “Energo Pro out” and “Bulgaria above all”.




The Sofia Globe staff

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