Bulgaria: Protesting energy, mine workers block motorway, mountain pass

Energy and mine workers protesting against the Bulgarian government’s plan for the eventual closure of the country’s coal industry blocked part of the Trakia Motorway and the Pass of the Republic for a second day on September 30.

The protesters blocked the Trakia Motorway – the motorway linking Bulgaria’s capital city Sofia to the Black Sea city of Bourgas – near a turnoff to Stara Zagora, and the Pass of the Republic, also known as the Hainboaz Pass, near the village of Gurkovo.

The protest began on September 29, ahead of the government’s adoption of the Territorial Just Transition Plans for the country’s coal-mining regions, envisaging the mines being allowed up to operate up to the year 2038 and with strategies to attract investment and secure incomes as the country’s coal industry shuts down.

The plan was adopted at a special session ahead of the government meeting the deadline to submit it to the European Commission. It is key to receiving very large sums in EU funding.

The government intends that those who quit the coal-mining industry be given a special payout equivalent to 36 monthly salaries.

On September 30, the protesters refused an offer to meet Energy Minister Roumen Radev (not to be confused with the president of the same name).

One, Stefan Stefanov, told Bulgarian National Television that the protesters were not interested in receiving the payout, but wanted to retain their jobs.

Bulgaria’s Prime Minister Nikolai Denkov has invited the country’s two main labour confederations and their coal industry organisations for talks at the Cabinet office on October 1 at 4pm.

The leader of one of the labour confederations, Plamen Dimitrov, said that it was not clear if the meeting would take place, given that if the government had submitted the plan to the European Commission, talks would be meaningless.

The protesters reportedly intend continuing their blockage of the Trakia Motorway and the Pass of the Republic at least until October 2.

(Screenshots via Nova TV)

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