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Bulgarian Opposition: Government Energy Policies Are "Risk For National Security

The Bulgarian government faces a vote of no-confidence in parliament on October 13 over plans for a transition to cleaner energy and other policies in the energy sector that have sparked angry protests from miners and other workers.

The motion, filed by the nationalist and pro-Russian party Vazrazhdane and backed by the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), and the small populist party There Is Such People (ITN), is seen as having little chance of succeeding as the three parties do not have enough seats in the parliament.

Members of the three opposition parties said the government’s policies in the energy sector were a "risk for national security" during debate on the motion in parliament on October 12.

Prime Minister Nikolay Denkov countered that there was "no basis for the opposition's criticism," adding that he was confident the government would receive enough support to survive the vote.

The opposition parties has criticized the government's decision to adopt and send to the European Commission plans for the green transition of three coal-mining regions -- Stara Zagora, Pernik, and Kustendil -- which are expected to be hit hard by the switch to cleaner energy.

Adoption of the plans was a condition for the European Commission to allocate 1.2 billion euros ($1.27 billion) in funds that would be used for the green transformation of the regions and the creation of new jobs for coal workers.

The plans must include a timetable for reducing the capacities of coal-burning power plants in order to be approved by the European Commission.

Related: France Mulls Extending Windfall Tax On Oil And Power Giants

The adoption of the plans sparked protests of miners and other energy sector workers who fear they would lose their jobs. The government negotiated an agreement with the protesters, with Denkov saying the government won't close any coal-burning power plants before 2038. He added, however, that "the market will decide which ones will stay."

Still, Iskra Mihaylova, a lawmaker from Varzrazdane, claimed that the coal regions are facing an "economic catastrophe" as a result of the government's decisions.

Konelia Ninova, the leader of BSP, also criticized the government's actions in the nuclear energy sector and said that the government itself is "a risk to national security."

But Kiril Petkov, a lawmaker from We Continue The Change – Democratic Bulgaria, said the no-confidence vote was part of a campaign for "propaganda based on fear and hatred."

"I suspect that some of you regret that we are in the European Union and would be happy if we could participate in Putin's Eurasian Union," he said during the debate, referring to some of the opposition parties' pro-Russian orientation.

The three opposition parties, supported by one independent lawmaker, have only 72 of the 240 seats in parliament.

The two ruling parties -- We Continue The Change - Democratic Bulgaria and GERB -- have a majority of 132 lawmakers, while the Movement For Rights And Freedoms has 36 lawmakers.

Observers see the motion as a means for the opposition to raise its profile before an upcoming local election in late October.

Political turbulence is nothing new in Bulgaria. This is the first motion for vote of no-confidence against Denkov's government, which was formed in July after five general elections within two years.

We Continue The Change – Democratic Bulgaria and GERB have long been rivals but agreed to form a government after negotiations that lasted more than two months following the elections on April 2.

Former Prime Minister Boyko Borisov's GERB party came first but it failed to cobble together any support to form a government.


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