SEE MORE of the history of the green movement in Bulgaria
B) ‘The Civic Green Movement in Bulgaria from 2005 until 2014: Successes, Problems and Perspectives for Citizens’ Empowerment’: Vera PETKANCHIN (For the Nature Coalition, Citizens for Rila civic group and Shtastlivetsa) , Dr. Desislava ALEKSOVA (International Business School – Botevgrad and Shtastlivetsa)
Radosveta KRASTANOVA Presentation at Nottingham University: On Spontaneous Civic Movements in Defense of Bulgarian Nature
THE GREEN MOVEMENT IN BULGARIA: BETWEEN SYSTEM INTEGRATION AND SYSTEM CHANGE
The development and distinctiveness of the Green Movement and the green parties in Bulgaria reflect the intricate logic of the transformations, which have been taking place in Bulgarian society over the past quarter of a century. The actors of the Green Movement have responded to these processes both in the direction of system integration and – more frequently – in the direction of contesting and opposing the system, whereby in their most productive periods they have even contributed to system change.
Much like the green parties in the West, the Bulgarian environmental movement is the result of a social evolution promoted by a middle class that has endorsed a new type of modern culture. This middle class, however, has emerged and consolidated at a different historical time and in quite a different setting. This is the reason why it mirrors peculiarities that are common for the civic movements in the countries of the former socialist system, but at the same time it manifests specific traits typical for the “Bulgarian model” of transition.
Environmentalism is one of the few causes capable of generating wide public support in Bulgarian society on an ongoing basis. During the three stages of its evolution (the “dissident” period from the end of the 1980s, the “NGO” period during the 1990s, and the “new green wave” of the first decade of the 21st century), the Movement has been expressing public discontent, has defended public interest against private interests clad in power, and has been a unifying factor of the broad moral opposition against the practices of the political status quo. The Green Movement has also been manifesting the national attachment to Nature, the deep cultural roots of which span over centuries.
Despite its achievements, the Green Movement has failed to embed an autonomous and influential green party of its own in the institutions of power. The Movement – Party relationships are problematic. What has gained the upper hand is the logic that the Green Movement should go without a party and that the green parties should be outside the Green Movement. The reason why is that parties take environmentalism on board to the purpose of coming to power but afterwards they rapidly get marginalized.
The willpower for direct civic participation in the decision-making processes over the last years has marked a new stage in the development of the Green Movement. After 2005, the consolidation of the environmentalist community into a civic coalition named “Za Da Ostane Priroda v Balgaria” (For Nature in Bulgaria to Remain) and the establishment of a new green formation determined to represent an authentic environmental party (Zelenite – the Greens), have set up prerequisites for launching an autonomous environmental project in Bulgaria. The volatility of the party system and the voter disappointment with the parties of the status quo now have opened opportunities for new political actors to emerge.
The integration of the environmental project goes through the lasting inclusion of the green priorities on the agendas of all political parties and in the country’s policy at large. So far, the Bulgarian political system is far from envisaging an objective like this. The role of a catalyst to these processes once again falls on the shoulders of civic society embodied by the Green Movement, whereas the hopes for a “green breakthrough” in the system will continue to be linked to the synergy between this Movement and an authentic Green Party.
Radosveta Krastanova – Presentation at Nottingham University
On Spontaneous Civic Movements in Defense of Bulgarian Nature
In order to understand the selection of the topic and its importance, a brief excursus into the risen and development of the environmental movement in Bulgaria is necessary.
Therefore, I would like to present some of the most considerable stages in the evolution of the new environmental movement in Bulgaria.
Firstly I would label this movement as “new”, as in the end of 80ies of previous century Bulgaria already experienced the first so-called green wave, which was grounded in the dissident protests in the end of the totalitarian regime.
I. THE CASES
1. Save Irakli Campaign
The first considerable civic mobilisation was been related to Irakli – a quite picturesque and untouched place, one of the last nine places that has evaded the Black Sea saeside urbanization.
Save Irakli Campaign has been ofircially launched in the spring of 2006 because of the investment plans of some companies /group of investors, associated with a offshore Swiss company founded in Bulgaria, to develop the area by building hotels, despite the place’s status – half of it is protected by law and is a potential NATURA 2000 site. The people from Save Irakli Campaign managed in due time to hold various activities and to attract enormous public support. Only within a year the citizen group evolved in national campaign, including people from many big towns in Bulgaria. Famous Bulgarian actors, film directors and intellectuals supprted the environmentalists. The groups’ activities are specific – they use non- conventional approaches, vision, layout and striking messages, as you can see on these photos.
Here you can see two of the most successful actions:
- The procession of the natural mad capes, held in February 2007. The message was that normal people, who are aware of the real dangers and issues, are been taken as MAD CAPES, and so they turn into endangered species, as they do demand that their rights shoud be protected and they should be treated in accordance to the law of species in danger
- The second event called The Longest kiss in the entire history of st. Valenitine’s Day, and in the hole green movements history or A Kiss for Irakly, summoned in February 14th 2008 hundreds of enamoured activists in front of National Theater in Sofia.
The Campaigns’ activites are not organized solely on the base of holding effective direct actions although they do attract a considerable public support. The campaign became visible at a national and european level due to active dialogue with the relevant institutions, strongly lobbying on executive and judicial authorities, organizing requests and petitions and filing court lawsuits.
On January 23, 2007, the environmentalists handed in at the National Assembly of Bulgaria 50 000 signatures petition of Bulgarian and foreign citizens standing out for defending Irakli and the whole Black Sea coastline. The same petition was been officially submitted in in the European Parliament as a proof for the considerable public concern of the Bulgarians for the Black Sea coastline’s hyper building.
The second considerable civic campaign was named Save Strandja .
Strandja mountain is situated in the south eastern part of Bulgaria, has unique flora, fauna and landscape and is listed among the five EU first priority protected sites in South- Eastern Europe. Strandja has a statute of natural park. The campaign started quite spontaneously and evolved really fast. The reason for initiating it was the decision of the Supreme Administrative Court to abolish the , legal statute of the park. At the back of this absurd decision were the economic concerns of CRASH 2000 investment company and pressure of the local authorities. CRASH 2000 erected this hotel and tries to legalize it.
“Save Strandja campaign” was the most rapidly evolving and most effective of all held so far. The explanation for this success are related with the new technologies, permitting successive and permanent spreading out of the news – the ones who have been informed messaged sms and emails to their acquaintances, upload and post the info on all websites and blogs which engandred a spontaneous reactions. Few hours later all these people that has been in the current of the news of the court’s decision met and gathered at two of the focal places in the capital. Unofficially they have been between 1000 and 2000. Most part of them did not know each other and decided just in time how to act out without scenario. By stepping out on the roads and completely blocking the traffic /and virtually obstructing by sitting-in one of the major boulevards/. The police accused all of breaching the peace and arrested about 20 people some of them minor.
Nevertheless the result was quite clear. By this action /called flash mob/ the Campaign hit the news for the day. The events was broadly covered by all media in Bulgaria and many media in abroad. The public largely supported the protesters. This have been strongly backed up by the sociological agencies and their polls– According to NCAPO (National Center for Analysis of the Public Opinion) in July 2007 77 percent of the Bulgarian citizens did support the Campaign, exceeding the support of teachers, pensionners and taxi drivers, held almost at the same time. Consequently, only two weeks later due to the strong public pressure the Parliament invalidated its Act, thus restoring the previous statute of the Park.
The next campaign is NATURA 2000
The reason of its emergence was been provoked again by some senior decision – this time of the Council of Ministers– to reduce the Bulgarian protected areas in NATURA 2000 Network from 34 to 18 per cent.
In the part that has been dropped out there are places that every Bulgarian cherishes and loves to visit and relax by – these are one of the most picturesque, lovely and stunning places at the Black sea coast and up in the mountains. The official reason was that the scope’s borders had to be explicitly defined, and the non- official – grey sphere economic concerns together with political authority’s representation.
The campaign has been run without break for 8 months by peaceful sit in protests each Thursday/the day for the ordinary Council of Ministers’ session/ in front of the building of the headquarters of the Council of Ministers. Environmentalists continually diversify repertories of their sit-ins – each event was been held thematically and follows its own scenario such as – gathering coins for paying the future fines imposed by EU, “Cotton ear – caps” protest – showing the lack of dialogue between the protesters and the state institutions, masquerade event, at which there’s a transgression of sexes’ roles – men are women and vice versa – to demonstrate that noting goes normal in the country, but things are inverted and insane.
The output was successful: the Council of Ministers decided to recuperate a considerable part of the territories. Notice that this is due not only because of all protests, but because of a combination of tremendous exterior lobbying and permanent pressure from inside – by sending requests and petitions, elaborating expert stands and constant warnings to the European Commission and the European Parliament.
The last campaign that I will present / most current one/ is Save Rila Campaign.
Rila is maybe the most known Bulgarian mountain range – a mythical place and mysterious centre of the esoteric White Brotherhood Movement, established in the end of the 19th century by the Bulgarian Peter Danov – The Teacher. The mountain nowadays still attracts not only fans of еxtreme sports but people with different spiritual needs, men with certain spiritual inclination. Rila Crew was initiated again on the same basis stated already – a decision for extension of existing ski racing tracks by violating and destroying some protected territories, hyper building and concreting the places all over. The construction and the building of an enormous ski resort is pending and the construction as well of artificial eighth lake near the famous 7 Rila lakes, that will be tooled up with synthetic snow.
For quite a short time, this team consisted mainly of university students and young experts won great public support not only in Bulgaria but also from abroad. A clear evidence is the France- Rila Campaign, initiated by French citizen, who works on European level due to the activity of a Bulgarian, Dutch, German, Macedonian , Belgium and French citizens.
The united endeavours of Rila crew and Rila – France Campaign put the campaign in the agenda of the European Commission and the European Parliament. In the scope of the Campaign’s activities, there are few court lawsuits, petitions and written requests, meetings with representatives of the European Commission. Recently a group of euro-commissioners visited Rila on the ground of many complaints of Citizens for Saving Rila for violating many national and European laws. The considerable public support for the campaign is obvious by public petition for Saving Rila which collected 150 000 (hundred fifty thousand) signatures.
At the end of 2006, some of these citizen groups and campaigns merged into the most outstanding ecological and environmental NGOs and founded ForTheNature Coalition. This Coalition is actually the most sustainable and considerable accomplishment of Bulgarian civil environmental movement and can be regarded as an essential social and political factor. The structure is not homogeneous – citizen groups as Rila Crew, leagued together with civil associations even with NGOs around a particular problematic issue. The coalition does not have a legal status and does make solutions based on the difficult democratic consensus principle. The organization is been managed on horizontal principle and re-creates network characteristic to the smaller civic groups and initiatives.
Last but not least I would like to point out that in the last years in Bulgaria there’s a considerable expansion of local initiatives and foundation of local lobby citizen groups and active initiative committees at places where there’s a need for deciding particular issues in given district, a metropolitan area or a community.
Just an example – There is a network of initiative committees within Sofia metropolitan, initiated and evolving because of waste disposal crisis of the city.
 initiated by a group of citizens, self-organized in defence of one of the last preserved sites along the Bulgarian Black Sea coast. The citizens from Save Irakli group have been actively involved in almost all actions in protection of Bulgarian nature in the past years, as their activities had been supported by the most important nature conservation organizations in Bulgaria
Find further information at: www.daspasimirakli.com.
 Find further information at: http://www.bnr.bg/RadioBulgaria/Emission_English/Theme_Science_And_Nature/Material/strandjaprotest.htm
 For more information see http://www.natura2000bg.org/natura/eng/index1.php
Green Revolution: How Eco-Activism Made Bulgaria Care Again
Environmental campaigners have shown they can fight the system – but how far can they fix it?
|Where rebels once fought for cities from the forests, activists today say they are fighting in cities for control of the forests.|
On the afternoon of June 13, 2012, about a thousand people gathered at the Eagles’ Bridge, a busy intersection in downtown Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria, bringing the traffic to a standstill.
“Sorry for the inconvenience, but we’re trying to save what’s left of Bulgaria,” read one of the protester’s signs. A group of young men and women sat in the street, while others sang, danced or rode bicycles between honking cars and buses. “We want nature, not concrete,” was the recurring chant.
The flash-mob had been organised that same day on Facebook in protest against the National Assembly’s decision to change the country’s forestry law. The amended law would have effectively removed curbs against certain types of logging, and permitted the expansion of ski resorts into state-owned forests, without changing the status of the land.
The police arrested a few people, but efforts to contain the rallies proved futile. The next day, the number of protesters had doubled.
Bulgaria’s Prime Minister, Boyko Borisov, at first stood firm, insisting that nothing could stop investment in winter tourism. Much of the government-friendly media simply dismissed the protesters as “ecologists”.
On the third day, there were as over 4,000people at the Eagles’ Bridge. “We are not ecologists, but citizens,” the new signs read.
Facing political contagion from the spiralling protests, the newly-elected president, Rosen Plevneliev, vetoed the Forestry Law and returned it to the National Assembly for another round of negotiations.
The law was revised and officially ratified in early August, in accordance with the protesters’ demands. It was a significant victory for Bulgaria’s eco-conscious citizens – but it was not the first one.
|Protests against fracking brought together Bulgarians from a range of backgrounds.|
Over the last few years, civic movements have mushroomed in the country, dedicated to resisting what they regard as threats to the environment.
Some have opposed unbridled construction on the Black Sea coast. Others have fought against the cultivation of genetically-modified crops, or campaigned against gold mines and the extraction of natural gas through hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking.
Together, they have provided an effective antidote to widespread political apathy, and have made institutions more responsive to public pressure.
“There is a break in the system,” says Vasil Garnizov, an associate professor of anthropology at the New Bulgarian University who has studied the environmental movements.
“Whether it is permanent, or whether it will truly reconfigure the situation, remains to be seen,” he says. Garnizov, who is also a former deputy minister of regional development and public works, believes the new activism has encouraged Bulgarians to ask who runs their country.
“The most important question has been put on the table – who makes the decisions: citizens or oligarchs?”
For many observers and participants, environmentalism has resurrected long lost hopes of a robust civil society in Bulgaria, one of the poorest states in the European Union.
|ACTIVISM FOR EXPORT|
|Bulgaria’s green activism has also spilled across the Danube into neighbouring Romania, a country that has many of the same economic, social and environmental problems.
After pressuring their government to impose a moratorium on fracking, Bulgarian activists launched the first Facebook campaign against shale gas exploration in Romania. Both countries share aquifers that risk being polluted by fracking. The Bulgarian activists helped the Romanians with documents and know-how.
Their efforts bore fruit in March this year, when Romanians took to the streets in numbers unseen since the fall of communism in 1989. The protests were largest in the north-eastern town of Bârlad, where fracking operations had been planned.
The demonstrators – including many who had been mobilised through local authorities, churches and trade unions – demanded a moratorium on fracking similar to the one passed in Bulgaria.
As protesters took to the streets in Bucharest, shale-gas exploration became the subject of a national debate.
The contrast with the years immediately after communism is stark. During the so-called “transition” period, public resources were plundered by political and business elites. As a result, many citizens withdrew from civic life, deeply disillusioned with the democratic process.
“The environmental movement is the first one that has managed to bring people out in the street and effect change to some degree,” says Borislav Sandov, a co-chair of The Greens, a young party that has been involved in the recent campaigns in Bulgaria.
“The environmental movement has become one of the main pillars in the fight for democracy.”
Environmental politics have unique roots in this small Balkan country. It was the Independent Society of Eco-Glasnost, an ecological organisation founded in the spring of 1989, which developed into the first dissident movement to openly oppose the Communist Party.
That same year, it organised the first public rally in Sofia against the regime and submitted a petition calling for greater openness on environmental issues. Aside from ecological concerns, there were also demands for social reforms, democracy, and human rights.
“Eco-Glasnost was first and foremost a dissident organisation. We achieved a lot on environmental issues, but environmentalism was also the shield, in the positive sense of the word, behind which we protested against totalitarianism,” remembers Alexander Karakachanov, one of the leaders of the movement.
“Of all the dissident organisations, Eco-Glasnost was the first one to liberate the public mind and show people that change was on the way.”
The movement enjoyed immense popularity in Bulgaria during the political changes in 1989. Later, it was closely associated with democratic reforms and became one of the constituent members of the Union of Democratic Forces, an umbrella organisation which was a major political player for more than a decade.
Despite its initial success, however, Eco-Glasnost soon disintegrated into bickering factions and gradually lost its political clout and grassroots support. With the economic situation worsening and public debate hijacked by raucous ideological battles between “communists” and “democrats”, Bulgaria’s first crop of environmental movements went to seed.
‘Children of the transition’
|The new wave of activists regard nature as the last shared resource to have escaped plunder.|
The period after 1989 – the “transition” from communism to capitalism – has not been kind to Bulgarian nature.
Ironically, the economic collapse of the country initially allowed some natural habitats to regenerate. Wildlife flourished as heavy industry, until then reliant on the Soviet Union’s cheap raw materials and export markets, began to shut down. Market liberalisation, however, soon reversed the gains.
The real-estate and construction boom that preceded Bulgaria’s accession into the EU devastated many of the protected areas along the sandy beaches of the Black Sea coast and the country’s mountains.
Centuries-old pine forests in the Pirin Mountains, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, were destroyed to convert Bansko, a picturesque village, into a mega-size ski-resort. An inquiry by the Ministry of the Environment and Water later concluded that the resort had illegally expanded by more than 50 per cent of its originally assigned area.
Bulgaria is riddled with corruption. It is estimated to have the largest “grey” sector in the EU, accounting for about a third of the economy. Bulgaria is also the most investigated country for abuse of EU funds, according to the European anti-fraud office, OLAF. Through unchecked and often-illegal development, corruption has taken its toll on nature.
Studies by the Bulgarian Biodiversity Foundation indicate that in the period between 2002 and 2007, the country lost more biodiversity and natural landscapes than in all the preceding 20 years.
The environmental movements emerged in response to the rampant destruction of nature, which is often viewed as Bulgaria’s last public resource. A powerful coalition, For the Nature, uniting 21 non-governmental and civic organisations, was established in 2007, giving rise to a series of campaigns, many of which have so far proved successful.
“It was very difficult for a single organisation to tackle the most difficult cases. At a certain point we realized we had to work together to achieve success,” says Konstantin Ivanov, head of communications and marketing at the Bulgarian branch of WWF, one of the coalition members.
“Environmentalism is in the best position to unite people, regardless of their political or other differences.”
In 2009, for instance, a motley alliance of environmentalists, beekeepers, chefs, and parental organisations fought against attempts by the government and corporate lobbyists to introduce genetically-modified crops. Their efforts resulted in a highly restrictive law that virtually banned genetically-modified crops from the country.
|The authorities in Bulgaria have executed a series of U-turns in the face of mounting protests.|
The green movement also pushed for the expansion of Natura 2000, the European Union’s network of protected areas, to include 34 per cent of Bulgaria’s territory. The initial government proposal had included only five per cent.
But perhaps the biggest success came in January this year, when Facebook campaigns helped bring thousands onto the streets of Sofia and another 15 towns to protest against the controversial practise of fracking, for the exploration and extraction of shale gas.
The National Assembly responded by imposing a moratorium on fracking, the only such measure in eastern Europe.
“These have not just been protests, but complex campaigns involving various instruments [including media publicity and legal action],” says Svilen Ovcharov, a lawyer who has played a central role in environmental legal battles that have proved to be an important, if less visible, counterpart to street action.
“Beyond the green movement, I haven’t seen anyone in Bulgaria use so effortlessly the instruments of civic activism, generally speaking,” he says.
Some analysts have called the phenomenon the “green civil society” and the “new Bulgarian uprising”, drawing parallels with the Arab Spring and the Occupy movements in western Europe and the United States.
|GREENS FADE IN GREECE|
|Greece has had a strong environmental movement since the end of military rule in the mid-1970s. Opposition to nuclear power galvanized citizens and forced environmental issues onto the policy agenda. In Thessaloniki, green parties scored substantial victories.
In 2002, Greece’s various green factions united as The Ecologists Greens, a party which achieved success at national and European levels. In 2009, the head of the party, Michalis Tremopoulos, was elected to the European Parliament, the first ever green MEP from the Balkans.
The recent economic crisis has, however, diverted attention from environmental to social and financial issues.
“We lost many of our green supporters,” says Michalis Tremopoulos. “People struggle financially and don’t care so much about environmental problems anymore. We lost the connection to our voters.”
The crisis has also changed the government’s approach to the environment. Desperate to fill empty state coffers, a number of highly controversial projects have been given the go-ahead – including plans for a large gold mine on the Khalkidhiki Peninsula. Protests from locals have had little effect.
“Foreign multinational companies want to devour Greece now,” says Maria Kadoglou, one of the leaders of the anti-mining campaign.
Just as environmentalism in post-communist Bulgaria and Romania experiences a renaissance, the movement appears to be declining in Greece – a country with a far longer tradition of democracy and civic engagement.
As the Bulgarian green movement has grown in scope to include a wider demographic of young, tech-savvy, mostly middle-class professionals, its impact on government decisions has increased.
“Today’s battle is not taking place in forests for control of the city squares, but in city squares for control of the forests,” wrote Georgi Deyanov, a university student, in a widely publicised essay that became the unofficial manifesto of the forestry law protests at Sofia’s Eagles’ Bridge this summer.
“We are against oligarchies, which remain beyond the law and monopolise all spheres of economic, political and public life,” he continued. “We are the children of the transition.”
Environmental law ‘too strict’
Not everybody is pleased, of course. Critics argue that too much focus on the environment slows down Bulgaria’s economy, especially in the poorer regions. They say excessively strict regulations hurt business and investment, resulting in higher unemployment.
“The demographic and economic catastrophe in the mountain regions is terrible,” says Philip Tzanov, a businessman and president of Nature for People and Regions, an association that actively promotes ski development and says it represent the interests of regional communities.
“Environmental regulations in Bulgaria are way too strict and present a serious burden for businesses and investors.”
After the Eagles’ Bridge events, Tzanov’s association helped to organise a counter-protest in defence of regional development, bussing hundreds of residents from small mountain towns to Sofia. Many of them were elderly and impoverished and carried their own signs: “Jobs, business and investment are not dirty words”; “Give a green light to tourism”; “Don’t give in to ecological racketeering”.
The counter-protest in Sofia may have lacked the spontaneity of the environmental events, but it brought home an important point: the vast majority of people in Bulgaria are still mired in poverty and see environmentalism – rightly or wrongly – as an additional obstacle to their own economic recovery.
“There is a huge gap between these two cultures,” says Garnizov, the associate professor in anthropology.
“The Bulgarian administration has a long way to go before it has the capacity to control the conflict between the absolute imperative of environmental protection and the absolute imperative of economic development.”
But there are signs already that the green movement has started to erase the old social and geographical borders. In the small town of Krumovgrad, in the Rhodope Mountains, the vast majority of residents have spoken out against a Canadian company’s proposal to build an open-pit gold mine in the vicinity.
In Varna, a provincial resort town on the Black Sea coast with a history of corruption scandals, mass rallies were held in early July in protest at plans to permit private construction in the largest public park. The protesters had been inspired by the success of similar demonstrations in Sofia. As public pressure mounted, the town council reversed its decision.
|Graffiti in Bucharest portrays money as a monster running amok through nature.|
According to Radosveta Krastanova, an expert on the country’s green movements, the focus on the environment points to a renewed desire among Bulgarians for community and communal spaces in general, both wild and urban – something that has nearly vanished in the past 20 years.
“I certainly think the recent events created something like a community,” she says. “I’m not sure what to call it exactly: maybe environmental communities, in the broadest sense of the word. People who share a common vision and common values.”
‘Party’ Is a Dirty Word
Despite the popularity and success of the green movements in Bulgaria, the enthusiasm has so far failed to translate into actual votes during national and regional elections.
The utter disillusionment with electoral politics, which Bulgarians see as inherently broken and corrupt, has alienated many voters, especially the young.
“The rejection of political parties and politics in general is overwhelming,” says Toma Belev, a forest engineer and perhaps the most recognizable face of the Bulgarian environmental movement.
Of course, the crisis in political legitimacy is a familiar trend all over Europe, but it is especially acute in Bulgaria. A survey by Eurobarometer found that just 17 per cent of Bulgarians trust their parliamentary institutions, compared to 28 per cent on average in the EU.
It is one of the reasons why political parties have been virtually unrepresented at environmental rallies – and why any hint of political campaigning has been met with outright hostility from participants.
“The immunity to politics is very serious and people do not like to be identified with political parties,” says Petar Kardjilov, a doctoral student in crisis communications and an active participant in environmental rallies.
This deep distrust of politics has, in turn, presented a challenge for new reformist parties which hope to lure younger voters. The Greens, an environmentalist party founded in 2007, has been active in the public sphere, generating fresh ideas and policies on a range of issues from environmental protection and sustainable agriculture to alternative energy, eco-tourism and LGBT rights.
However, in the 2009 parliamentary elections they garnered only 0.52 per cent of the vote.
“The problem in Bulgaria is that ‘party’ is a dirty word. We understand that and often we’ve had to hide our role in campaigns, so that we don’t drive away participants who dislike political parties,” says Borislav Sandov, co-chair of the Greens.
Nonetheless, Sandov strongly believes in the need for political representation. In his view, independent civil society groups and political parties could cooperate in pushing through reforms by working from both outside and inside the system.
Others, however, fear that any direct association with mainstream politics would taint the grassroots ideal, as political deal-making and compromises would become inevitable.
|The future looks hazy for a movement that has so far renounced mainstream politics.|
That there are several environmentalist parties fighting each other over the right to represent the tiny green vote does not exactly help any of them win wider public trust. And while the green movement has been thriving, political environmentalism has fallen into a slump.
“One of the fundamentals of green parties is that their work requires time, it relies on a cumulative effect, which may be felt in ten or 20 or 50 years,” Radosveta Krastanova, the environmental scholar, says.
“But political logic is reversed: you have to provide an immediate result, right now. Environmentalism functions against the logic of the political system.”
Whether green parties can attract a bigger following in Bulgaria remains uncertain. However, environmentalism has already had a tangible effect on the country’s political discourse. Having gauged the strength of public opinion, some mainstream parties have started to adopt greener agendas to appeal to voters.
Most importantly, a new generation of Bulgarians seems to have finally found its voice after years of social collapse and a loss of common values that had allowed the powerful to operate without checks and balances.
“The fight for the air, water, and forests has proven to be the only viable form of solidarity,” says Vasil Garnizov. “All other forms of solidarity – social and national – seem to have failed.”
Dimiter Kenarov is a Sofia-based journalist. This article was produced as part of theBalkan Fellowship for Journalistic Excellence, an initiative of the Robert Bosch Stiftungand ERSTE Foundation, in cooperation with the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network. It was edited by Neil Arun.
How to create local sustainable agriculture and sustainable environment in Bulgaria – problems and hopes – Nadezhda MAKSIMOVA (alternative farmer in the town of Tryavna): lecture at the Travelling university and Summer school for sustainable regional development ‘Place for Future: Chiprovtsi 2013′ 3-9 June 2013
The Place for Future Interdisciplinary Education Network and the participants in the ‘Europe on the Go’ Spring University in the village of Zhelen: Visiting the Centre of the Trinoga (Tripod) Association for Sustainable Development, visiting the old school (Daskalovata Kashta), lecture on and demonstration of biodynamic gardening and agriculture: Filip KIRILOV.
Yuliana NASKOVA (Vlahi Nature School, The Red House Centre for Culture and Debate and Shtastlivetsa Civic Association, Sofia).Seminar: ‘The Erasmus Generation: Vlahi Nature School: Sustainable Development, Volunteering, New Type of Education for Children and New Postmaterialist Culture’
Filip KIRILOV – Lecture in the village of Zhelen: Visiting the Centre of the Trinoga (Tripod) Association for Sustainable Development, visiting the old school (Daskalovata Kashta), lecture on and demonstration of Biodynamic Gardening and Sustainable Agriculture: Filip KIRILOV.
Teodor VASILEV (NC Future Now and Shtastlivetsa Civic Association, Sofia). Seminar: ‘The Erasmus generation: sustainable development, volunteering and the new postmaterialist culture’: at theTrinoga (Tripod) Association for Sustainable Development in Daskalovata Kashta in Zhelen, host Filip Kirilov.
Kiril TSENEV (Poet, artist, traveller) and Slav from Artecolonia Zhelen. Seminar and discussion: ‘The Erasmus generation: sustainable development, volunteering and the new postmaterialist culture’: at the Trinoga Association for Sustainable Development in Daskalovata Kashta in Zhelen, host Filip Kirilov.
Franck DUBOIS (House of Human Sciences, Dijon, France) — Sustainable development in Dijon — best practices for sustainable urbanization: lecture at the Travelling university and Summer school for sustainable regional development ‘Place for Future: Chiprovtsi 2013′ 3-9 June 2013 Chiprovtsi, Bulgaria
Andrey KOVACHEV (Balkani Wildlife Society) – “Natura 2000 in Bulgaria – problems and prospects”
lecture at the Travelling university and Summer school for sustainable regional development ‘Place for Future: Chiprovtsi 2013′ 3-9 June 2013 Chiprovtsi, Bulgaria
Katerina RAKOVSKA (WWF) – Natura 2000 and the Green civil society in Bulgaria, For the Nature Coalition: lecture at the Travelling university and Summer school for sustainable regional development ‘Place for Future: Chiprovtsi 2013′ 3-9 June 2013 Chiprovtsi, Bulgaria
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