Beach battles: Bulgarian Deputy PM complains to Prosecutor-General about Tourism Minister

The strange spectacle of the confrontation between Bulgarian Deputy Prime Minister Valeri Simeonov and Tourism Minister Nikolina Angelkova continued on June 6, with him asking the Prosecutor-General to investigate allegedly illegal actions by her ministry, and her hitting back that his actions were damaging the country’s image as a tourist destination.

Simeonov, a co-leader of the United Patriots, minority partner in the coalition government, is conducting a second year of high-profile stunts involving alleged irregularities at Bulgaria’s popular Sunny Beach resort.

For a second year running too, he is clashing with Angelkova, a member of Prime Minister Boiko Borissov’s GERB party.

Simeonov has made statements against Angelkova on television in recent days, and on June 5, the two Cabinet members exchanged harsh messages on Facebook. June 6 saw them both at a scheduled regular weekly Cabinet meeting. The same day, he sent to the Prosecutor-General a series of allegations involving what he called the Ministry of Tourism’s “illegal schemes” at Sunny Beach South.

Earlier on June 6, Simeonov made public on Bulgarian National Television the allegation that at Nessebur, the Hadjiiska River had been unlawfully diverted by 300 to 400 metres, and at the site of its former riverbed, place of entertainment The One was built.

Simeonov said that at the seaside, there were illegal buildings “that resemble malls”, put up without proper foundations and exceeding legal size requirements. “Who will be responsible if they fall and kill someone?” he said.

He repeated his allegation that a number of well-known places of entertainment on the beach at Sunny Beach were illegal, an allegation that Angelkova previously has denied.

Simeonov showed Ministry of Tourism documents with Angelkova’s signature, but added that the person who drew them up should be held accountable.

Some days ago, he alleged that Angelkova had wanted to privatise some hectares of state-owned beach. Her Cabinet colleagues, including Finance Minister Vladislav Goranov, said that even if this were true, it was not illegal. Angelkova said that her ministry had nothing to do with the ownership of beaches, only matters related to their administration.

Responding on June 6, Angelkova said that Simeonov’s actions at the seaside were detrimental to Bulgaria’s tourist image.

“All of this is being done at the beginning of the season and is extremely damaging especially to the image of Bulgaria as a tourist destination. I do not know what the meaning of this is, and last year there were these shows too, I do not understand what the purpose is,” she said at the beginning of a meeting of the parliamentary committee on tourism.

“As a member of the United Patriots’ quota, I can only wish you a successful summer season,” said Alexander Sabanov. Angelkova asked him if he was poking fun, and the MP said he was speaking very seriously.

Angelkova said that she adhered fully to her powers under the law.

“I am not an engineer, or the Construction Control Directorate, nor a judge nor an expert to research construction sites,” she said. The permission for the beach bars and restaurants had been given by the Nessebur chief architect – the equivalent of a town planner – and “these are not establishments that popped up last year. They’ve been there for 10 years,” Angelkova said.

She said that she was not concerned about Simeonov approaching the Prosecutor-General.

Angelkova said that she was not in a dispute with Simeonov, adding that she believed that he had been misled by his advisers.

“It is very important to read the settled case law of the court, which is the competent authority to judge whether or not lawful actions have been taken. The Deputy Prime Minister is not the competent authority, the court is the competent authority,” she said.



The Sofia Globe staff

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