Well more than 1000 people in Sofia and a large number in Varna gathered in protest on March 20 against approval by the Bulgarian Socialist Party cabinet of a memorandum opening the way for building a large holiday accommodation complex at Karadere on the Black Sea, part of the European Union’s Natura 2000 environmental conservation network.
The government approved the memorandum with the Madara Europe company on March 19, which includes provisions that the state will assist the company to meet the requirements for permits.
The decision sparked immediate outrage, especially against a background of previous attempts to start large construction projects in one of the few relatively unspoilt parts of that stretch of Bulgaria’s Black Sea coast.
The rapidly-organised protest saw people first gathering outside the cabinet office and then proceeding to the economy and energy ministry office. In moments reminiscent of the post-June 2013 anti-government protests, there were many calls for the government to resign.
“We want nature, we do not want concrete,” protesters chanted. There were also chants of, “once again, the BSP equals mafia”.
The government sought to defend itself by saying that the project was still in the conceptual stage and that if the company did not meet all environmental law requirements, building at Karadere would not be allowed.
The controversial project resulted in a call by centre-right opposition party GERB for the environment minister to immediately block the plan.
The investor company was adamant that “only 20 per cent” of the territory of Karadere would be built up and only eco materials and safe technologies would be used, according to a report by public broadcaster Bulgarian National Television.
BNT quoted Sophie Landers, director of environmental and social policy at Madara Europe, as saying that old trees would be identified and the resort “built around them”. “We understand why people are sensitive, but so are we.”
This was because “we want to maintain this territory and sell just its natural beauty,” she was quoted as saying.
The economy ministry denied that construction had already begun in Karadere. Both the government and the investor company insisted that the state would not put any money into the construction of the complex.
Deputy economy and energy minister Anna Yaneva said that an environmental impact assessment would be prepared and conformity under the Biodiversity Act assessed. If the project did not compy with the requirements, it would not happen, she said.
In Varna, protesters against construction in Karadere told local media that the place should not be built up because it was one of the last unique and pristine beaches in Bulgaria.
“We regularly visit and it should remain preserved, with no building. As for the government, if this project happens, it will be the straw that breaks the camel’s back – people’s wrath will overflow. Because there have been too many similar cases in Bulgaria,” a protester said.
Meanwhile, architect Georgi Stanishev, brother of BSP leader Sergei Stanishev, has denied having anything to do with the project in Karadere.
He confirmed that he had been a partner in the creation of the initial – and never implemented – first project to build a holiday village in Karadere, which ended in 2007, but was not familiar with the new plans.
“I do not know the project. I learnt about it this morning from journalists who called me and asked me questions about it, to which I have no answers except to say that I do not know what it is and was not involved in the design.”
(Main photo: Yvo Bojkov)