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GOING, GOING, GONE... (BUT NOT QUITE) © Anthony Georgieff

As Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, who had said the previous month that he had not been on holiday for "17 years," was doing some summertime rounds of asphalted roads and archaeological sites, his man in Tsarevo, the local GERB mayor, promulgated a new construction plan, just approved by the local city council, to build up Silistar, perhaps the last remaining construction-free beach on the southern Black Sea coast. What had saved Silistar from becoming an urban jungle in the footprint of Sozopol, Primorsko and so on, had been its remoteness and proximity to the Turkish border. The city councillors of Tsarevo acted to rectify this – and approved a construction plan right in the Strandzha Nature Reserve.

Predictably, some environmentally minded citizens, including Tsarevo locals, protested against what they saw as yet another blow, perhaps the death blow, against the nature of the southern Bulgarian stretch of the Black Sea.

Tsarevo City Council was about to go ahead – until Prime Minister Boyko Borisov phoned the local mayor and "asked" him… not to fulfil his councillor's decision until all citizens were convinced the projected bout of construction was pretty innocuous.

There are two things very wrong in this story, which qualified hands down for this month's Joke of the Month. First, the gluttony of the Tsarevo construction entrepreneurs knows no limits when it comes to making a fast buck or two. Second, it is quite obviously not the job of the prime minister to order mayors not to honour what appears to be  legitimate, if highly controversial, decisions of their elected city councillors. Things should simply not be done in this fashion in a formal democracy where the various checks and balances should ensure the mayor of Tsarevo behaves sensibly – and so does the prime minister.

What will happen to Silistar now? It is unlikely the projected construction will be halted. The rulers will probably use the media they control to denigrate the environmentalists – and the "evil" things they have done to Silistar Beach with their tents and bicycles. Then they will turn back to the already approved construction plan and go ahead with it. In this way they will ensure the general public will be on their side when the cranes move in.


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