Bulgaria: Protesting Against Seafront Construction in Varna

For the past two years, a seafront promenade in Varna known as the First Alley has been a cause of confrontation between civil society organizations and TIM Group, which runs projects throughout Eastern Bulgaria and owns many of the hotels on the coast. The activists are fighting against large-scale construction and are trying to protect the Sea Garden landscape park in Varna.

Protest_VarnaA protest poster: “Sea Garden is not for sale!”

One of the most vocal opponents of the construction project is Kalina Pavlova, a local architect. She is considered “the face” of civil society in Varna by some. Together with other citizens and NGOs, she actively works to let the public know about the circumstances of the sale of 122 acres of the Varna coast to “Holding Varna”, a TIM Group company, and about the support that private investors are getting from the municipality as they are trying to build a whole new city by the coastline of Varna: seven hotels, some 500 bars and 300 shopping centers (more graphics and photos from the location – at view.point, Pavel Yanchev's blog; BUL). In 2009, Ms. Pavlova received a special award from the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee for “exclusive civil courage in protecting the public interest against the illegal acts of the local institutions in favour of private corporations.”

User mok wrote this [BUL] at Arhitektura.bg blog on Oct. 9, 2009:

[…] This is one of the many deals struck in our dear fatherland, that everybody knows is illegal, but is deemed legal by the ones who can make it so. You are aware of our current government's motto (besides dealing with the crisis) – fighting corruption. As funny or as trivial as it may seem, we are witnessing the annulment of old deals, swaps, etc., from [the times of the Triple Coalition], found to be illegal. All that has to be done in this case was for the deal in question to be reviewed, declared illegal and therefore void. Yes, but not quite. No one's ever going to do something that's not in their interest. As long as there isn't enough uproar anyway. Is that all? Is this how things should be? Should deals contrary to the common interest be made, can't the same beautiful architecture be build with a lot of money, but in a manner not only intended to satisfy the interest of the investors?

Here is a comment from one of the readers:

It is very interesting how in this article has been highlighted that the new government reviewed the old deals, but unfortunately did not follow the new deals – I wonder why? The game [corruption] does not stop, only the players [the government] put on new faces.

Jurgen Roth, a German journalist, wrote this about TIM Group:

“[It] represents the most advanced form of organized crime, an example of what is indicated by the term “Mafia Borghese”- a structure penetrated in the higher spheres of society.”

Mr. Roth is the author of a book on organized crime in Bulgaria and is currently being sued for slander by Rumen Petkov, Bulgaria's former interior minister (earlier GV posts about the situation with Mr. Petkov are here and here). Mr. Roth chose not to show up for the second hearing of the trial this past Monday, due to threats from Mr. Petkov that he claims to have received.

Attempts to intimidate anti-construction activists in Varna have also taken place. Blogger Toross reported (BUL):

[…] Architects and organizers of the protests Nikolay Tsvetkov and Kancho Bonev were attacked – with this message, “We know what you do.”


NGOs protesting against the controversial deal sent an official letter to the prosecutor general and [PM Boyko Borisov]. No reaction. […]

Ms. Pavlova is quoted saying this (BUL) in Mirela Veselinova's text on the mafia's new project that appeared on e-vestnik.bg, an online news site:

[…] There is just no other way to live a decent life – to make a home for yourself, build a career. If you are too afraid to stand up for your rights, then you might as well leave the country. […]

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