Official launch of Bulgarian Council presidency marked by protests
The formal launch of Bulgaria’s EU Council presidency on Thursday was marked by a large-scale demonstration by thousands of protesters in the country’s capital.
Protestors descended on the streets of central Sofia and 15 other Bulgarian cities, objecting to alleged corruption and the decision to permit a ski resort and commercial logging in Pirin National Park.
The demonstration coincides with a visit of all European Commissioners and the opening ceremony of the Bulgarian EU Council presidency in Sofia. The delegation includes European Parliament President Antonio Tajani.
Street protests have been growing since the Bulgarian government agreed on 28 December a plan to extend commercial construction and logging over 48 per cent of Pirin National Park's 400sq km territory.
Simultaneous demonstrations will be held later on Thursday in other European cities including Brussels.
Protestors, supported by a coalition of Bulgarian environmental NGOs, ‘For The Nature’, including Za Zemiata/Friends of the Earth Bulgaria, are demanding that the decision is repealed and call for the resignation of the minister of environment and water, Neno Dimov.
Danita Zarichinova from Za Zemiata/Friends of the Earth Bulgaria said, “The Bulgarian government is mired in controversy as it takes on the Council presidency, and people are taking to the streets to protest against its decision to devastate one of our most precious EU-protected national parks.
“People are fed up with corrupt decisions that serve private interests. The eyes of Europe will be looking to Bulgaria to set a good example and protect our right to nature for all to cherish in the future.”
The unique ecosystems of Pirin, recognised by UNESCO and protected under EU law, are home to brown bears, wolves, rare species of owls and woodpeckers, as well as more than 70 endemic plants including a 1300-year old tree - Bulgaria’s oldest.
Meanwhile, Tajani confirmed he will also participate in the official inauguration of the Bulgarian presidency of the EU Council together with President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, and the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Junker.
Ahead of the visit, Tajani said, “Bulgaria’s presidency comes at a critical moment whereby our Union needs to deliver on the expectations of citizens with regard to their main concerns: migration, security and job creation for young people.
“I am confident that Bulgaria will lead the charge for Europe to deliver on these fronts, in close partnership with the European Parliament.”
Tajani will be welcomed by Bulgarian President Rumen Radev and Prime Minister Boyko Borissov. The MEP will deliver a speech at the opening ceremony.
MEPs will vote on a raft of energy proposals and debate the future of the EU during the first plenary session of the year, next week in Strasbourg.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and his Council counterpart Donald Tusk led an EU delegation to Sofia to launch the Bulgarian Council presidency on Thursday.
MEPs are being urged to amend the present renewable energy directive to “avoid expansive harm to the world’s forests and the acceleration of climate change.”
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