Bulgarian Prime Minister defensive in EU Parliament plenary
Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov has defended a controversial leisure project which has been condemned by environmentalists.
Boyko Borissov and Antonio Tajani | Photo credit: European Parliament audiovisual
The European Greens have spoken out against the expansion of the Bansko ski resort in Bulgaria.
The park is a Unesco world heritage site of outstanding universal value and is protected by the EU’s birds and habitats directive through the Natura 2000 network.
But the Bulgarian government’s plan to expand the Bansko ski resort has been branded as “extremely worrying, as it will have a massive impact” on the nature and biodiversity found within the Pirin National Park.
As Bulgaria takes up its six-month presidency of the Council of the EU, the Greens have urged its authorities to ensure that any activities in the area meet all EU rules.
They said, “It is essential that legislation is rigorously enforced to protect the park against any impacts from inappropriate development.”
The concerns were repeated by German Greens MEP Ska Keller in a debate in Parliament on Wednesday.
Keller, who is Greens/EFA co-President, spoke for the group in the debate on the Bulgarian presidency and called on the presidency to live up to their motto, ‘United we stand strong’.
She said, “I hope that the Bulgarian presidency will bring its motto to life and strengthen European cohesion. Important reforms such as the strengthening of the euro, a solidarity-based and humane asylum system and better climate protection are on the agenda this year. The only way we can achieve that is for everyone to work together.
“The Bulgarian presidency must not close its eyes to attacks on fundamental rights and should work to ensure that the rule of law applies equally in all EU member states. We stand with all the Bulgarian citizens that are taking to the streets against corruption and the commercial exploitation of Pirin National Park.”
In the debate, Borissov told MEPs, “The protection of nature in Bulgaria is something we take seriously. Indeed, in the past I used to stop projects to protect hatching of new storks.”
He insisted that the works at the park will have a negligible impact on nature, saying, “This is only about the installation of a second cable car in the mountains. This is something which is vital for the tourists who use the park.”
The Prime Minister also defended his country against accusations, from the Greens and others, that it is not doing enough to tackle corruption.
He said, “People say corruption is rampant in Bulgaria but if this were true why are we constantly re-elected?
European Parliament President Antonio Tajani, speaking alongside Borissov at a news conference after the debate, told reporters, “We welcome the presidency programme and I appreciated everything the Prime Minister has said today, not least about the EU budget. He says he is committed to promoting dialogue and this is music to our ears. We want to strengthen relations between the parliament and Bulgaria.”
Tajani, “We roll up our sleeves with Bulgaria to strengthen our Union and respond to citizen concerns, starting from migration, security and youth employment. I am confident that the Bulgarian presidency will contribute to the elaboration of a multiannual financial framework which reflects these priorities.”
The Italian MEP said, “I appreciate the particular attention that this presidency puts on youths. We need to open the path to the aspirations of the new generations and create employment. To translate this into reality, we need to attract more investment in sectors with high potential, like the digital technologies, creative industries and tourism.
“I also share the presidency’s commitment for the promotion of entrepreneurship, also through the promotion of a climate conducive to innovation and business start-ups.
“Bulgaria is a main actor to promote security and has shown itself to be a reliable partner in the control of external borders. We count on its presidency to move forward in these essential sectors.
“We also look forward to a decisive contribution on the management of migration flows and asylum. In December, the Parliament has voted with an overwhelming majority for a new system of asylum which is efficient and based on solidarity. It is high time for the Council to do its part.
“Bulgaria has travelled a long way in the last years. 10 years from its accession it is now a motor for growth and stability in the region, also thanks to its strategic geographic position.
“Bulgaria can play a key role in supporting and guiding the path to Union membership for our neighbours in the western Balkans.”
Tajani said, “Thanks to the personal commitment of Borissov, our agenda now foresees enlargement as a concrete perspective for those countries which demonstrate to be ready for it, already in the coming years. I will be visiting Serbia at the end of this month to demonstrate the commitment of the European Parliament in this regard.
“Bulgaria is no longer a ‘new member state’. Now it is leading Europe, and I am convinced that it will do this with success. I strongly hope that it also joins Schengen and the euro at the earliest.”
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