News / Europe

Bulgaria Parliament Readies Power Price Cuts

Thousands of demonstrators shout slogans protesting high utility bills and energy-sector monopolies, Sofia, Bulgaria, Feb. 24, 2013.
Thousands of demonstrators shout slogans protesting high utility bills and energy-sector monopolies, Sofia, Bulgaria, Feb. 24, 2013.
Reuters
Bulgaria's parliament moved to cut electricity prices on Wednesday, an attempt to defuse public anger that had forced the government out, which risked undermining confidence in the economy.
 
Adding to a sense of political limbo in the European Union's poorest state, outgoing Prime Minister Boiko Borisov has been hospitalized with high blood pressure before an interim government has been appointed to take the country to early elections.
 
Bulgaria's outgoing Prime Minister Boiko Borisov at EU council headquarters, Brussels, Feb. 7, 2013.Bulgaria's outgoing Prime Minister Boiko Borisov at EU council headquarters, Brussels, Feb. 7, 2013.
x
Bulgaria's outgoing Prime Minister Boiko Borisov at EU council headquarters, Brussels, Feb. 7, 2013.
Bulgaria's outgoing Prime Minister Boiko Borisov at EU council headquarters, Brussels, Feb. 7, 2013.
Six years after joining the bloc, Bulgaria trails far behind other members. Its justice system is subject to special monitoring and its citizens are excluded from the passport-free Schengen zone because of other members' concerns on corruption.
 
Many protesters say they are angry with Bulgaria's whole political class, causing more uncertainty over the upcoming election, and government concessions raise the risk of a widening deficit and market pressure.
 
After demonstrators attacked power company offices and three people set themselves on fire, parliament passed a law allowing electricity prices to be cut by a promised 8 percent from March. That will further hurt electricity distributors — Czech companies CEZ and Energo-Pro and Austria's EVN — which are already the focus of protesters' ire.
 
"The situation is tragic. We need a radical a change — people took to the streets due to total misery," said Sergei Stanishev, leader of the opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP).
 
Borisov — a former bodyguard to communist dictator Todor Zhivkov — resigned last week after two weeks of sometimes violent protests by tens of thousands accusing the government of being a "Mafia" due to rampant corruption and its failure to improve living standards.
 
Borisov's departure has failed to fully calm voters in a country where the average monthly wage is 400 euros ($520) and pensions are less than half that amount. Demonstrations have continued on a smaller scale, though large protests are planned for the weekend.
 
The outgoing premier has even risked a diplomatic row with the Czech Republic and EU by threatening to withdraw CEZ's license, and prosecutors are investigating the power companies' prices and other possible malpractices.
 
The electricity distributors say they have done nothing wrong.
 
Borisov remains in office until an interim government is appointed, probably next week, to hold the reins until elections, which are expected in May. Hospital officials said he was admitted with hypertension earlier this week but should be discharged later in the day. A cabinet meeting due on Wednesday was postponed due to the prime minister's absence.
 
Borisov's GERB party is now running neck-and-neck with the BSP and neither is expected to win a majority. Whichever coalition forms a government, it will be under significant pressure to spend more.
 
Low living standards
Borisov has maintained tight fiscal discipline and brought the budget gap down to 0.5 percent of gross domestic product, important to maintaining confidence in Bulgaria's currency peg to the euro.
 
But living standards remain less than half the EU average and public anger spilled over when bills for electricity, which many people use for heating, suddenly rose in cold weather following a 13-percent hike last July.
 
Parliament changed the law to allow regulators to alter prices more often than the current once a year, which would allow the cut promised by Borisov a day before he resigned.
 
Even though the government will only see a slight fall in sales tax revenues, its concessions mean the next administration will be under pressure to further loosen the purse strings.
 
"The changes introduce a great deal of uncertainty on the market," said Nikola Gizmo, head of Bulgaria's photovoltaic energy association.
 
The attacks on the distributors may also deter investors by highlighting the risks of business in Bulgaria.
 
The economy is only slowly recovering, with growth of about 1.4 percent expected this year, which does little to raise living standards.
 
"We need some new faces that have the energy and desire to revive the current parties," said Konstantin Haralampiev, 47, an entrepreneur in Sofia.

You May Like

Hezbollah Chief Says Does Not Want War But Ready for One

VOA's Jerusalem correspondent reports that with an Israeli election looming and Hezbollah's involvement in Syria, neither side appears interested in a wider conflict More

Multimedia VOA SPECIAL REPORT: Despite Danger, Best US Minds Battle Deadly Virus

Scientists at America's premier biological research center race in military confinement to find effective drugs, speedier tests and a safe vaccine amid the deadliest outbreak of Ebola in history More

Kurdish Poet Battles to Defend Language, Culture

Kawa Nemir's work is an example of what he sees as an irreversible cultural and political assertiveness among Kurds in Turkey More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unresti
X
Heather Murdock
January 30, 2015 8:00 PM
Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Threat of Creeping Lava Has Hawaiians on Edge

Residents of the small town of Pahoa on the Big Island of Hawaii face an advancing threat from the Kilauea volcano. Local residents are keeping a watchful eye on creeping lava. Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Pro-Kremlin Youth Group Creatively Promotes 'Patriotic' Propaganda

As Russia's President Vladimir Putin faces international pressure over Ukraine and a failing economy, unofficial domestic groups are rallying to his support. One such youth organization, CET, or Network, uses creative multimedia to appeal to Russia's urban youth with patriotic propaganda. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Mobile Infrared Scanners May Help Homeowners Save Energy

Mobile photo scanners have been successfully employed for navigational purposes, such as Google Maps. Now, a group of scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology says the same technology could help homeowners better insulate their houses and save some money. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Filmmakers Produce Hand-Painted Documentary on Van Gogh

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Issues or Ethnicity? Question Divides Nigeria

As Nigeria goes to the polls next month, many expect the two top presidential contenders to gain much of their support from constituencies organized along ethnic or religious lines. But are faith and regional blocs really what political power in Nigeria is about? Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid