Bulgarian villagers call on the EBRD to ensure fair resettlement by coal company it finances
Beli Bryag, Bulgaria – Around one hundred villagers in the village of Beli Bryag, in Bulgaria’s Stara Zagora region, are anxiously awaiting for a resolution to their claims of proper resettlement by the Maritsa East mines, the company gearing up to expand its lignite mine to where the village currently stands. They have only until the end of the year before they are expropriated. 
29 May 2019
CEE Bankwatch Network and Za Zemiata are today launching a multimedia story featuring videos with locals from Beli Bryag, who are explaining the enormous psychological pressure they have been under for almost a decade, as the coal mining company attempting to resettle them is refusing to offer proper compensations – while the date of the expropriations is drawing closer.
“In the past years, the pressure from the mines affects our psychological state and health. You can tell by the colour of my hair that we are growing old very fast,” Petar Tenev, one of the featured villagers, explains.
Beli Bryag is set to be torn down by 2023 to expand one of the coal mines feeding into a plant in the Maritsa East complex, the largest in Bulgaria. The Maritsa East mines need to resettle the villagers, but the company is offering too low compensations, which villagers say do not allow them to purchase similar homes in nearby settlements.
The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), a public multilateral bank, has given a grant to the Maritsa East mines in 2014 , and later on has extended two loans for the issue of bond stocks to the Bulgarian Energy Holding, the mother company of Maritsa East. 
Because the bank has higher resettlement standards than those applied in Bulgaria, villagers have turned to the bank’s complaints mechanism to help settle their dispute with the company over the level of compensation. While the bank’s mechanism has sent in mediators, more than a year has passed with no resolution since the mediation process started.
“The EBRD must ensure that its client, the Maritsa East Mines, will do right by the people of Beli Bryag. If the dispute is not settled this year, people’s property will be expropriated. If they do not get better compensations than what the company currently offers, they will be kicked out of their homes in a shameful way, deprived of their livelihoods from vegetable gardens, farming land and animals, separated from the community they’ve lived their entire lives in, probably thrown into debt,” comments Genady Kondarev from Za Zemiata.
“This is a far cry from the good practice and international standards on resettlement that the EBRD committed to. Villagers of Beli Bryag put a lot of hope in the EBRD, not just to kick off a dispute settlement process but also to ensure it is completed in a fair manner,” says Kondarev.
Notes for the editors:
 As per a decision by the Maritsa East mining company board.
Never miss an update
We expose the risks of international public finance and bring critical updates from the ground – straight to your inbox.