Bulgarian government ready to negotiate on Forest Act amendments following public outcry



Posted on 15 June 2012  | 
Representatives of WWF and the coalition of NGOs and civic groups "For the Nature" met with Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov and Minister of Agriculture and Forests Miroslav Naydenov today to discuss the controversial amendments to Bulgaria’s Forest Act that were adopted by the Bulgarian Parliament on Wednesday. The coalition had repeatedly sent requests for meetings with the Prime Minister and had organized a series of lawful protests over the past six months. However, the invitation to meet only came after two spontaneous protests blocked one of Sofia’s busiest junctions for two nights in a row following the adoption of the amendments.

During the meeting the representatives of the government pledged to drop some of the harmful texts, including those permitting the use of state forest timber over forests’ natural growth, cutting down privately owned forests under five acres without state control and no longer classifying riparian forests as forests.

However no progress was made on the most controversial amendments that would practically allow for the construction of ski runs and ski facilities without changing land use and for the acquisition of building rights on public land without tender and for an indefinite period. On Monday at 10 am local time representatives of the coalition will meet again with the government.

Only Bulgarian President Rosen Plevneliev can now veto the Forest Act. WWF and “For the Nature” coalition are repeating their call for the President to veto the law.

In the mean time, protestors continue to demonstrate massive support for the protection of Bulgaria’s forests and protected areas by gathering for a protest for the third night in a row.

What is wrong with the Forest Act amendments

  • For the first time since Bulgaria gained its independence in 1878, the law would allow a third party to build in another party’s property without the owner's consent and without adequate compensation.
  • For the first time since 1925 riparian forests will no longer be classified as forests and it will be lawful to cut them down without any control from the state.
  • For the first time since 1931, when the first protected area of the country was announced, the state will allow for private companies to build in protected areas owned by the state.
  • For the first time since 1955 the law would permit the use of state forests timber twice over natural growth, which would reduce timber resources.
  • For the first time since 1991, when the current Bulgarian constitution was adopted, the government will allow for farmland to be used for purposes unrelated to farming, such as the construction of ski resorts and golf courses.
  • For the first time since 1991, the state is creating a sectoral aid scheme to aid the construction of ski resorts and golf courses, making them exempt from state taxes payable for change of land use.
  • For the first time since 1996, when the State Property Act came into force, building rights on public land will be given without tender by decision of the Minister of Agriculture.
  • For the first time since 1997 when restitution of forests started in Bulgaria, the state is allowing owners of private forests under 5 acres to cut them down without state control.

Further information

Alexander Dunchev, WWF Bulgaria Forest Expert, +359 885 511 022

Olga Apostolova, Regional Communications Officer, WWF Danube Carpathian Programme, +359 885 727 862, oapostolova@wwfdcp.bg
Protestors continue to demonstrate massive support for the protection of Bulgaria’s forests and protected areas by gathering for a protest for the third night in a row.
© Koen de Rijck Enlarge

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