A Judge Having a Conflict of Interest Decides in Favour of the Greens in the Struma Motorway Case

https://crimes.bg/vodeshha-tema/a-judge-having-a-conflict-of-interest-decides-in-favour-of-the-greens-in-the-struma-motorway-case/130726 Crimes.bg
A Judge Having a Conflict of Interest Decides in Favour of the Greens in the Struma Motorway Case

Judge Haigouhi Bodikyan of the Supreme Administrative Court, wife of Deputy Minister of Ecology Nikolay Sidzhimov, appointed from the quota of the "Green Movement" party, issues a controversial judicial decision against the Ministry of Environment and Water, in favour of environmentalists, writes "Eco News".

On January 12, the Supreme Administrative Court issued a decision related to the completion of the Struma Motorway through the Kresna Gorge. It is one of a series of 9 cases filed on appeals by the environmental association "For the Wild Nature of the Balkans", represented by Andrey Kovachev - former chief advisor to the Ministry of Environment and Water under Borislav Sandov and Toma Belev.

For over 20 years, environmentalists have been trying to thwart the highway project, with all their non-governmental organizations lobbying for a 15 km tunnel in the Kresna Gorge, backed by the interests of a Swiss company.

Family ties of the Greens

The reporting judge on the case is Haigouhi Bodikyan. She is married to the current Deputy Minister of Ecology Nikolay Sidzhimov. He holds this position from the quota of the "Green Movement" party, part of the "Democratic Bulgaria" coalition. Sidzhimov is their man in the Ministry of Environment and Water management, and through him, they influence decisions in the field of ecology.

For several months now, the co-chair of the party has been Toma Belev. He is Sidzhimov's party leader, and it depends on Belev whether Sidzhimov will remain deputy minister through rotation. In fact, Sidzhimov inherits Belev's position, with his area of responsibility being related to biodiversity and hence to Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA), environmental assessments, and assessments for compatibility with Natura areas. In other words, there is no project, whether private, municipal, or state-owned, on which Sidzhimov cannot exert influence.

The leaders of the Greens are tied in complex financial, familial, and friendly relationships. Belev's wife, Veselina Kavruhkova, has been a long-time representative for Bulgaria of the Swiss private non-governmental organization "WWF - World Wildlife Fund". It also involves Katerina Rakovska, wife of Andrey Kovachev. Former Environment Ministers Borislav Sandov and former Deputy Alexander Dunchew also work for WWF.

Almost no significant infrastructure project is not appealed by WWF. An example of this is the EIA for the Shipka tunnel and many others. At the same time, the Swiss non-governmental organization receives huge sums through grant schemes and public procurement.

The current Deputy Minister of Environment and Water Nikolay Sidzhimov is the same NGO activist as Toma Belev. He is also born in Kurdzhali and participation in non-governmental organizations is a priority in his career. Even now, he is a member of several NGOs, which is a serious violation of the law.

Parallel to this, Sidzhimov also has political ambitions. He was a member of the "Democratic Party" and deputy chairman of SDS-Sliven. He is now a member of the "Green Movement", chaired by Toma Belev.

The relationships between the spouses Sidzhimov-Bodikyan, Belev-Kavruhkova, and Kovachev-Rakovska are becoming something that raises justified suspicions about the existence of the so-called "green octopus".

Facts on the case

Andrey Kovachev filed an appeal in the Sofia Administrative Court against a decision of the Ministry of Environment and Water related to the newly built road junction Kresna, part of the Struma Motorway.

The judges of the Supreme Administrative Court dismiss the appeal without consideration, believing that the "Balkan Wild Nature Association" is not an interested party and in no way does the act of the Ministry of Environment and Water affect the interests of the non-governmental organization. Furthermore, due to similar cases, there is a decision of the Constitutional Court from 2020.

Kovachev immediately appeals to the Supreme Administrative Court, as the fee for NGOs is only 10 BGN. The case is randomly assigned to Judge Haigouhi Bodikyan, who is the wife of Deputy Minister of Ecology Sidzhimov - close personally, non-governmentally, and party-wise to Kovachev.

Instead of Judge Bodikyan recusing herself, as she has done several times recently in cases related to the Ministry of Environment and Water, she decides to participate in this case.

The judicial decision, of course, favours the "Balkan Wild Nature Association" of Andrey Kovachev. Moreover, it is very doubtful that the decision specifically on this case is posted on the website of the Supreme Administrative Court, aiming to gain media publicity, as well as achieved.

Political intrigue

Immediately after Toma Belev was elected co-chair of the "Green Movement", the party issued a statement that it withdraws its political trust from the current Minister Yulian Popov. Nineteen points are listed in the press release, accusing Popov of unfinished work. The listed cases are such that most of them would take at least a decade to resolve, not in the 5 months that Popov has been minister. Moreover, a large part of them should have been resolved while Sandov and Belev were managing the Ministry of Environment and Water.

Toma Belev's attack on Popov is obviously tendentious, as the Greens continuously boycott him. Belev wants to return to the Ministry of Environment and Water as minister, deputy minister, or to appoint his close associate, such as Nikolay Sidzhimov, to this position. To this end, he uses every opportunity for influence and presence in the media, whether it is judicial decisions or statements against Desislava Atanasova. The Greens are trying in every possible way to regain their declining influence in society and politics, to regain control of the Ministry of Environment and Water, and to manage a resource of over 3 billion euros.

By mastering the Ministry of Environment and Water, the Greens will decide the fate of all investment projects, including private investments, by allowing some (as Belev has done before) and stopping others.


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