Bulgaria's Corruption Committee Launches 'Dunes Gate' Probe
Bulgaria's so-called "Yane Yanev" parliamentary committee dealing with high-level corruption cases is initiating a probe in the "Dunes Gate" deal.
The probe in the scandal with construction on sand dunes in a protected area was approved by the committee on Friday by 7 votes "for." The committee will also investigate other land swaps and deals with State and municipal lands when there are suspicions of corruption practices of senior officials.
Yane Yanev, who is the committee's Chairman and leader of the marginal conservative Order, Law and Justice party, RZS, says "the dunes" scandal is not an isolated case, but a persistent practice in Bulgaria for many years now.
At its next meeting on January 16, the committee will hold a hearing in the case of Agriculture Minister, Miroslav Naydenov, and his Deputy, Svetla Boyanova.
Members of the Committee from the opposition parties of Bulgarian Socialists, BSP, and the ethnic Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedoms, DPS, were against their committee dealing with the "dunes" scandal on grounds there was a request already for appointing an ad hoc unit to probe the scandal.
They say Yanev's committee has turned into a body dealing with political orders of the ruling Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria party, GERB, aimed at benefiting certain business circles. The opposition further believes the Committee is trying to cover up GERB's murkey deals.
The scandal with construction activities on 29 decares of protected sand dunes between Ravda and Nessebar on the Black Sea coast erupted in the last days of 2012 when environmentalists said that the area was part of the Aheloy-Ravda-Nessebar protected area from the Natura 2000.
As a result, it became clear that the area was sold without a tender based on an older law that was in force until 2010. The new Forestry Act, passed in 2011, technically does not provide any way of selling State land without tenders but it said it allowed procedures that started before 2010 to be completed under the older law.
In the aftermath, Prime Minister, Boyko Borisov, ordered Bulgaria's Ministers of Regional Development, Agriculture, and Environment to update the Forestry Act, the Environmental Protection Act, the Biological Diversity Act, and the Black Sea Coast Organization Act "so that such deals and construction projects couldn't be allowed."
The PM also vowed that all deals will be probed by a special ad hoc committee.
On Monday, the Minister of Regional Development and Public Works, Lilyana Pavlova, pledged that legal amendments will be tabled ASAP to lead to a full ban on construction activities in Bulgaria on plots listed as sand dunes.
All procedures that have been launched for changing statute of protected lands, and that remain open, will be annulled.
Pavlova further promised to have more precise definition of the term "sand dune." The Minister of Environment and Waters has a deadline of one year to propose a list of dunes and adjacent terrains.
Construction will be further banned in all protected areas listed in Natura 2000.
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