... it is paramount that a phase out of coal comes with a phase in of new jobs and a systematic involvement of trade unions in the Just Transition Planning.

Today, Bulgarian trade unions affilitated to the confederations CITUB and PODKREPA, stage a national protest to complain against a transition strategy in their country that is lacking clarity and vision. Mining and energy workers from both confederations will hand over a petition with more than 100 000 signatures, containing clear demands regarding the Just Transition process in Maritsa East, the largest energy complex in South Eastern Europe, to:

  • Ensure sufficient time and provide for a smooth transition
  • Analyse the opportunities for energy independence
  • Ensure workers’ participation, well-paid jobs, better working conditions and a clear plan for the Maritsa East complex

The current political situation in Bulgaria stands in the way of a proper transition process. The Bulgarian National Energy and Climate Plan of 2019 included a coal phase-out by 2035, but the Bulgarian government stepped back from the phase-out date, thus creating uncertainty. Political instability also slows down the transition planning process. Two parliamentary elections earlier this year did not result in the creation of a new government and Bulgarians are now preparing for a third election in November. The current caretaker government has only now started consulting stakeholders about the transition process.

Soaring energy prices affect the Bulgarian economy and households particularly hard. Electricity prices have seen a 300% increase. Bulgaria already has a high rate of energy poverty with 30% of households declaring that they cannot afford to keep their homes warm. The situation could lead Bulgaria into an unpredictable economic and social crisis.

Trade unions are not sufficiently involved in the preparation of the Territorial Just Transition Plan and this drives down confidence and overall support of Bulgarian workers in the transition process.

Bulgarian industrial trade unions addressed their concerns in a letter to the Bulgarian Prime Minister:

“The Green Deal, and in particular the energy transformation, also comprises one more obligatory element called ‘Just Transition’. Miners and engineers are currently fighting not only for their jobs, but also for the country’s economy. The rash and unsecured shutdown of the Maritsa energy centre will be catastrophic for the country and a return of living standards that are decades behind. We, together with you, are all obliged to think about how to move forward, not backwards.”

Luc Triangle, General Secretary of industriAll Europe:

“Today’s protest in Bulgaria is a symptom of the huge gaps in the European Union’s Just Transition patchwork and in the economic and political situation in Bulgaria. The Green Deal will be particularly challenging for Bulgaria. Its economy is highly dependent on coal, energy prices are soaring high - affecting households and workers, infrastructure is frail and weak social protection is a real concern. For a country like Bulgaria, it is therefore paramount that a phase out of coal comes with a phase in of new jobs and a systematic involvement of trade unions in the Just Transition Planning.”

The situation in Bulgaria is sad evidence of the persistent gaps in the Just Transition policy framework across the EU and lack of trade union involvement.

It confirms the timeliness of industriAll Europe’s upcoming campaign that seeks to give industrial workers a strong voice in the transformation processes. Only a strong voice of industrial workers can ensure a Just Transition that leaves no worker and no region behind. IndustriAll Europe’s political platform spells out our concrete demands for a Just Transition.

Today’s protests in Bulgaria coincide with a meeting that industriAll Europe is organising with the Bulgarian trade unions and the European Commission’s services in charge of regional affairs and the assessment of the Territorial Just Transition Plans. The meeting will discuss how to improve transparency and trade union involvement in the Bulgarian transition strategy.

IndustriAll Europe stands by its trade union members in Bulgaria to ensure the transition is implemented with a comprehensive strategy, with workers being a strategic partner in the process. “Nothing about us without us!”

Contact: Andrea Husen-Bradley (press and communication), Corinna Zierold (senior policy adviser)