Bulgarian MPs shut down Belene proposal in Parliament

Bulgaria’s Parliament voted on February 27 a motion that supported the Cabinet’s decision to shelve the proposed nuclear power plant at Belene and suggested that the Government called an international tender to build new nuclear facilities on site of the Kozloduy nuclear station.

After hours of heated debates on two opposing motions, MPs voted with 114 in favour and 40 against to uphold a decision from March 2012 that officially ended the Belene project. The votes in favour came from ruling party GERB, with some support from the centre-right opposition Blue Coalition and independent MPs.

The opposition socialists, who put a rival motion asking for Belene to be restarted, voted against and showed their displeasure with loud foot stomps after the motion passed.

Facing dissolution as early as next week, Parliament rushed the issue on the agenda in order to meet the legal deadlines.

Last month, a referendum on the future of nuclear energy in Bulgaria, gathered just enough turnout to put the issue back on Parliament’s agenda. Despite overwhelming support for a new nuclear facility among those who did cast a ballot, the results of the referendum were not legally binding because of the low turnover.

The motion passed by Parliament on February 27 also called to speed up all proceedings to extend the life cycle of the two 1000MW nuclear units currently in operation at Kozloduy, in addition to launching proceedings to build new nuclear facilities on site of the plant.

The Blue Coalition proposal also asked that Bulgaria calls an international tender to sell the equipment already ordered for the Belene project, but dropped that point at GERB’s request.

The socialist motion calling to resume construction on Belene was defeated with 96 votes against and 33 in favour.

Opposition Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF) said that its MPs would not participate in the vote on either motion. The referendum was discredited by the ambiguous framing of the plebiscite question, MRF leader Lyutvi Mestan said.

The referendum was called after the socialists gathered more than half a million signatures in support of a petition calling for Belene’s restart. The socialists have made Belene a cornerstone of their electoral agenda even before the recent protests against high electricity prices toppled the Cabinet of Prime Minister Boiko Borissov and showed no intention to change their plans now.

“If you decide to [end Belene], we will call an all Bulgarian citizens and seek support for a majority in the next National Assembly for the urgent restart and quick construction of Belene nuclear power plant, because the problems with the electricity prices depend on who produces what energy and how,” socialist MP Yanaki Stoilov said during the debate preceding the vote.

The motion on Belene was not the only energy sector-related legislation passed by Parliament on February 27. Before the debate, MPs passed amendments to the Energy Act allowing the country’s utility regulator to adjust electricity prices more than once a year, paving the way for an electricity price cut as early as March 1.

(Bulgarian Parliament. Photo: Clive Leviev-Sawyer) 



Alex Bivol

Alex Bivol is the Deputy Editor-in-Chief of The Sofia Globe.