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

Tired of Waiting, South Africans Demand Change ‘Now’

With chronic poverty and lack of basic services largely fueling recent xenophobic attacks, many in Rainbow Nation say it’s time for government to act More

Challenges Ahead for China's Development Plans in Pakistan

Planned $46 billion in energy and infrastructure investments in Pakistan are aimed at transforming the country into a regional hub for trade and investment More

Audio 'Forbidden City' Revisits Little Known Era of Asian-American Entertainment

Little-known chapter of entertainment history captured in 80s documentary is revisited in new digitally remastered format and book More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
X
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs