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Who Foiled the Deal for Kozloduy Nuke

Date: 31.12.2005

The attack Kouneva launched against Ovcharov looks like a solo action resulting from Euro integration fatigue

On the eve of the New Year Minister of European Affairs Meglena Kouneva surprised the Bulgarian public with some unusual opinion, quite untoward for the holiday. First, she accused vice premier Roumen Ovcharov that due to his contradictory statements Bulgaria has lost 280 million euro in compensations for the decommission of Units 3-4 of the Kozloduy nuclear power plant.
Second, she wagged her finger at France because it is the only country, which doesn't approve of Bulgaria's EU accession unlike the rest of the 24 countries.
Let's consider these facts in reverse order. It is true that France is delaying the ratification of the accession treaty, but it is also true that a cabinet member cannot levy such direct accusations unless the government decides that Bulgaria has an interest to be at odds with France in the coming years. It is common practice around the world to give the floor to the analysts in such cases while ministers should behave more diplomatically. Paris most probably regrets that Kouneva was decorated with the order of Legion of Honor. Hopefully, there will be no other, more serious consequences.
Kouneva's statements concerning Kozloduy are even more difficult to assimilate. The former government led by Simeon Saxcoburggotski, in which Kouneva was a minister of European affairs, closed the Energy chapter in a manner that was shameful for the Bulgarian democracy. This happened in total secrecy in the end of September 2002. On October 1, 2002 I was in Brussels and had talks with some of the official representatives of the European Commission. They were so happy about the "brave decision of the Bulgarian government, which made up its mind to decommission Units 3 and 4 despite the fact that the issue had been extremely touchy for the public. When I called my colleagues in Sofia, none of them knew of this decision.
President Parvanov arrived in Brussels for the talks with Romano Prodi, then head of the European Commission. He told me that he learnt from the press that Units 3 and 4 were earmarked for decommission. The government hadn't informed him about it. Later Parvanov said at a news conference that the decision came as a great surprise to him. Actually the President found himself in a very unpleasant situation as a head of state, while ministers Kouneva and Kovachev (then Energy Minister) kept silence. The same October 2, the National Assembly in Sofia voted a decision, which obliged all state institutions to refrain from any commitments concerning the closure of Units 3-4 before Bulgaria's full EU membership. Later the Supreme Court ruled that the Parliament's decision was unlawful as it was taken post factum.
The truth is, however, that if Bulgaria closed the reactors as a member state it would have received more money as compensation and even sue the European Commission in Luxembourg should our real costs be bigger than the actual aid.
At the same time Kouneva initiated all kinds of silly forums where self-appointed "expert" explained how advantageous it would be to Bulgaria to decommission the reactors. Her memory certainly is failng her, because now it proves that Ovacharov was to blame for the fact that Bulgaria has lost 280 million euro in additional compensations because he allegedly "sent contradictory signals" to Brussels concerning the Bulgarian nuclear power plant.
If it were not for the cabinet's decision to ask for the additional aids of 280 million euro a month before the EU summit Bulgaria would have found itself in an even more awkward situation. The country wouldn't have been able to save face even when it became clear that Slovakia arranged extra funds (euro 375 million), while Lithuania received 865 million for the decommission of their nukes. PM Stanishe met Jack Straw and asked him for 280 million euro. Later, when the budget agreement was approved it turned out that nothing had been allotted for Kozloduy. These are the raw fact. Sad, but true.

Georgi Gotev
Standart News

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