Bulgaria Controversial Forestry Act Fuels Mass Protests
Thousands of Bulgarian protestors have vowed to hit the streets again on Thursday, calling on the president to veto the controversial brand new forestry act.
The Bulgarian Parliament passed definitively Wednesday the controversial Forestry Act, allowing construction of ski tracks and lifts without changing the status of the land.
Some 2000 protestors rallied against the new law on Wednesday evening, blocking for more than an hour the traffic along the boulevard close to Eagles' bridge.
The protestors, mainly young people and even families with little children, carried posters, reading: "Forests mean life" and "Sorry for disturbing you. We are just trying to rescue what has been left of Bulgaria."
No violent clashes with the police have been reported.
The amendments were backed by 75 Members of the Parliament from the ruling, center-right Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria party, GERB, and 3 independent MPs. Two from GERB and all others voted against.
109 MPs out of 240 were present.
After a number of protests of eco activists, and inquiries with the European Commission, GERB decided to alter the initial version of the new law. It now provides that the permit for the construction of ski and other sports facilities must be established through a tender conducted by the State or the municipality, depending on ownership on the forest territories.
Despite the change, the opposition reiterated that the amendments serve lobbyist interests and would benefit a handful of companies. According to opposition MPs, the State is to lose BGN millions from the lack of fees to be paid to change the status of the lands. They further criticized the new option for construction under a public-private ownership as one of the many loopholes in the law.
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