By Clive Leviev – Sawyer of The Sofia Globe
Bulgarian Socialist Party leader Sergei Stanishev has reaffirmed the determination of his party, currently in power, that the Belene nuclear power station project should go ahead.
Speaking in Koprinka at the 10th annual national convention of Russophiles on September 7, Stanishev underlined support for the Russian-linked Belene project as well as the South Stream pipeline project.
Belene, planned about three decades ago by Bulgaria’s communist regime, was only partly built but the project was formally shut down by Bulgaria’s centre-right then-government in early 2012.
A January 2013 national referendum on the issue drew a turnout too low to be decisive, although the “yes” vote was marginally in favour. The issue was referred to Parliament where the centre-right GERB party held to its opposition to Belene, on which the then-government had pulled the plug because of a prolonged failure to attract any investors and the conclusion that the project could not be economically viable for Bulgaria.
A few weeks after this referendum, national protests were mobilised around electricity prices and when there was an incident of violence in Sofia during these protests, GERB leader Boiko Borissov resigned, precipitating the early elections that enabled the BSP – through it ran only second – to come to power.
After the 100-day mark of the BSP government, little has been done on energy issues, barring some tinkering to keep consumer prices down, the long-term effect of which remains to be seen.
Stanishev said on September 7 that for the BSP, the Belene issue was “not over” because, he said, “I am convinced that the project is economically viable for Bulgaria”.
Belene, according to Stanishev, would provide opportunities for technological development and the maintenance of nuclear energy and the nuclear status of Bulgaria for the coming decades.
South Stream, he said, would bring jobs, billions of euro investment and put Bulgaria on the European map.
Belene and South Stream were important projects for Bulgaria, that the government would develop in spite of attempts at vilification of the projects by political opponents, Stanishev said.
The ambition of the BSP and the cabinet was to reactivate economic relations and projects between Bulgaria and Russia, he said.
He noted with regret that in recent years the cultural relationship between the two countries had become “a little faded”.
“We have a resolve a lot of matters and develop many mutually beneficial projects with Russia,” said Stanishev, who is also leader of the EU-wide Party of European Socialists.
Bulgarian-Russian relations had deep spiritual, cultural and economic traditions and could contribute to the development of Bulgaria, especially in economic terms, Stanishev said.
He said that another priority of the current government would be the issue of the pensions of Bulgarians who had worked in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.
At the time of the 2005/09 BSP-led coalition, an agreement was signed, but in the past four years little had been done to implement the agreement, Stanishev said.
Practical work on the issue had to be resumed “because it affects thousands and thousands of our fellow citizens,” he said.