Bulgaria: Protesting miners, energy workers lift blockade of motorway, mountain pass

Coal miners and energy workers protesting against Bulgaria’s proposed territorial plans for a just transition of the country’s coal regions ended on October 12 their blockade of Trakia Motorway near Stara Zagora and the Pass of the Republic, Bulgarian National Radio (BNR) reported.

The blockade ended just two week after it began, after the government submitted the proposed plan to the European Commission.

The protesters would “seek fulfillment of their demands in another way,” BNR said.

A “national protest” was held on October 12 in their defence and “in defence of the cause of energy independence,” the report said.

The roadways were to be inspected by police and the Road Infrastructure Agency before normal traffic was restored.

From next week, the participants in the protest are to collect signatures for a strike at a thermal power plant and Mini Maritsa East, the report said.

“We are not backing down, we are simply withdrawing from the blockades and continuing with subsequent actions with which we think our demands can be achieved,” trade union leader Bisser Binev of the Podkrepa trade union federation branch at Maritsa East 2 told reporters.

Demands of the protesters include withdrawal of the proposed plan.

The government has said that it would not take the step of shutting down the country’s coal industry, though that industry is seen as having scant future as there are no new investments in it and banks decline to grant credit to coal mines, seeing the industry as having no future amid the pivot to cheaper, cleaner sources of energy.

A key element of the plan is to offer alternative career futures for those in the coal industry, and financial compensation for those who leave it.

The plan was the occasion for a cluster of minority pro-Kremlin and populist parties in Bulgaria’s Parliament to table a motion of no confidence in the country’s pro-Western government on the grounds of what they claimed was its failure in energy policies, with those minority parties claiming, while offering no factual or persuasive evidence, that Bulgaria would be plunged into energy poverty.

The ruling majority, certain not to be ousted because there is substantially too little support for the motion of no confidence, due to be voted on on October 13, accused the minority parties of exploiting baseless fears and using the issue to claw for votes in the country’s municipal elections scheduled for the end of October.

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The Sofia Globe staff

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