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Bulgarian report Bulgarian report
by Euro Reporter
2012-03-11 09:41:24
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Calls for suspension of shale gas moratorium

Members of the newly established Movement for Energy Independence (DEN) have called for a cancellation of the moratorium on shale gas development in Bulgaria. Speaking at a Friday press conference, Mihail Mihaylov, MP from the right-wing Blue Coalition, said that a proposal for forming a special commission on shale gas issues would be submitted to Parliament on Wednesday. "Although the project was submitted to Parliament 20 days ago, nobody has paid attention to it," Mihaylov added. He pointed out that Bulgaria had to do everything possible to study its energy resources and the lack of a debate on the matter was quite peculiar. The right-wing MP explained that the current ban on shale gas exploration and production through hydraulic fracturing was also barring exploration for conventional raw materials.

Ognyan Minchev, Director of the Institute for Regional and International Studies, said that Gazprom was "putting cheese in the mousetrap" by leaving opportunities for negotiations for lowering prices of natural gas. Minchev was adamant that Bulgaria should not sign any documents on the South Stream gas pipeline project before the entry into force of the EU's Third Energy Package. Dimitar Ivanov, leader of DEN, argued that electricity generated from natural gas could be cheaper than the electricity produced in nuclear power plants. "In order for this to happen, however, Bulgaria needs to walk the tough road of energy independence and diversification," Ivanov remarked.

He spoke about the growing popularity of combined-cycle gas turbine (CCGT) power stations, adding that Bulgaria could produce cheaper electricity amid liberalized market conditions for gas supplies. Ivanov insisted that Bulgaria had to immediately renew work on the construction of the gas grid interconnections with Turkey, Romania and Greece. He explained that the current ban on shale gas exploration and production through hydraulic fracturing was also barring exploration for conventional raw materials. Energy experts Hristo Kazandzhiev and Evgeni Mihaylov claimed that Russia's Gazprom was trying to tie Bulgaria to gas supply contracts for a period of 15 years stipulating "unequivocally unacceptable terms". They said that Bulgaria would be made to buy more gas than it actually consumed and would be deprived of any opportunities for energy diversification.

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Environmentalists to stage new anti-fracking rally


Bulgarian environmentalists are to protest on Saturday in downtown Sofia against potential shale gas research and exploration in the country. "The fight is not over! For the conclusive ban on shale gas!" the main slogan of the rally is set to be.

The protesters are demanding new legislation to be adopted, tackling all exploration activities, including a law regulating concessions, since they believe the current legislation leaves the door wide open for robbing Bulgaria of its natural resources. The environmentalists have decided to stage the new protest after Economy and Energy Minister Traicho Traikov announced the formation of a consultative committee on shale gas without including representatives of their civic initiative or scientists.

In January, following a wave of environmental protests, the Bulgarian government revoked a shale gas exploration permit granted to US energy giant Chevron for deposits in Northeastern Bulgaria, citing the insufficient proof of the environmental safety of hydraulic fracturing. The decision followed a wave of protests organized by environmentalists and citizens across the country. On January 18, the Cabinet imposed an indefinite ban on hydraulic fracturing, a method which involves injecting a mix of water, sand and chemicals at very high pressure deep underground to crack rock and release oil and gas.

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Ex-President bid to chair socialists is wrong


One of the key political events of the week in Bulgaria was the formal confirmation by President Georgi Parvanov that he intends to run for chair of the Bulgarian Socialist Party. After long months of intimations to that effect on the part of the President and the ensuing speculations among analysts and party circles, we now know for certain that during the socialist congress in May we will witness a clash for the leader’s position. Parvanov chaired the Bulgarian Socialist Party 1997-2001, before serving two 5-year terms as Bulgaria’s president 2002-2012. He was succeeded by present socialist and PES leader Sergey Stanishev. As things stand now, the best scenario in the clash between Parvanov and Stanishev is comparatively impossible – the scenario in which this clash implies does not happen. The second best option – Parvanov does not manage to get the leader’s seat.

A number of important circumstances around Parvanov’s candidacy make it deeply inacceptable and contrary to political logic. Said with few words, Parvanov’s bid is untimely, lacking in content, and presented with a high degree of arrogance. This and more suffice to judge that a policy led by him will be harmful for both the Socialist Party and Bulgarian political life in general. Let’s think about timing first. Why does the Socialist Party need to change leaders right now? It is true that Stanishev has a term in office, a congress is coming, and anyone who meets the internal party criteria can present his or her candidacy. But what is the ground on which Stanishev must go, and precisely now? Perhaps Stanishev should have stepped down after the Socialists’ dismal showing in general elections in 2005, and the loss of a battle for image with current PM Boyko Borisov. For some reason or another, this did not happen, but if it had happened, it wouldn’t have been illogical. What has changed in BSP since then, so that a leadership change is necessary?

The blatant answer: what’s new is simply the fact that since end of January Georgi Parvanov is no longer acting president of the Republic of Bulgaria and might anew sit at the helm of the left. Such an answer is of course ridiculous and contrary to the logic of internal party development. Many were also understandably irritated by the enviable speed with which Parvanov mutated from a non-partisan president, embodying the unity of the nation, in a pretender for the leadership position of a political party. Which leads us to the lack of content of Parvanov’s bid. Parvanov himself has yet failed to explain what precisely makes him leading BSP warranted. What are the alternatives he has formulated contrary to the current direction of the party? In what ways will the party under his leadership be more responsible to its supporters and the country? How is he going to counteract the cabinet’s policies? What are his specific views about, e.g., the development of Bulgaria’s economy or Bulgaria’s role in EU politics?



      
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