The organization is led by Pavel Simeonov. He is part of the "green" circle around Toma Belev - the illegitimate chairman of the Association of Parks in Bulgaria. While Belev and his circle sabotage key state and private investments on the pretext that protected areas will be affected, their associate Simeonov is the owner of a hotel in Natura 2000 under the guise of an information center. The real idea of the building is to host ornithologists, scientists and bird lovers to observe the protected species near Durankulak Lake. Today, however, Pavel Simeonov rents rooms for 45 euros per night.
"Hurry, because there are no places. I am an ornithologist and I can guide and explain to the guests about the rare birds. This is paid extra" says Simeonov on the phone of the tourists. A check in the area showed that a furnished house in Krapets consisting of two rooms and a kitchen can be hired at the peak of the summer season for 40 euro per night.
And while the "environmentalist" is developing his business, the official response of the Regional Inspectorate of Environment and Water (RIEW) in Varna responded as follows: "The property is located in a protected area for wild birds BG0002050 "Durankulak Lake"".
The idea for the information center dates back to 1999 when the Durankulak Lake Protected Area Management Plan was written. These habitats fall within the scope of the Protected Areas Act. Areas often coincide or bordering with Natura 2000 sites. The latter regime is defined in the Biological Diversity Act. Thus, in the present case there is a protected area called "Durankulak Lake" and an area of the same name.
Author of the Management Plan is the Bulgarian-Swiss Biodiversity Conservation Programme (BSBCP), now called the Biodiversity Foundation. It is a non-governmental organization (NGO), member of the Coalition "Let nature remain in Bulgaria".
In 1999, the emerging "ecological" movement in Bulgaria is aware that in the near future everything around Durankulak Lake will be protected. Therefore, it is logical that any construction there should be avoided especially by the "environmentalistic" organizations. But in the BSBCP management plan, the construction of the center-hotel is a must. The reason is that it is already included in one of the area development projects, which is funded by the "Le Balkan" Foundation - investor, builder and owner of the building.
"It proposes an idea to create a visitor flow service infrastructure in the Durankulak region" he wrote in the Management Plan. The quote shows that even then, the "greens" think in a distant business perspective, the center will serve tourists who want to learn more about the protected species.
Sources from the Municipality of Shabla told "Trud" how the organization has acquired the terrain on the shore of the Durankulak Lake, on which the hotel was built.
Twenty years ago, on January 27, "Le Balkan" sent a letter to the then mayor of Shabla Kosta Kostov. The text explains that the construction of the building is already included in the Development Plan of the Durankulak Lake, which was adopted by the Municipal Council. The foundation offered a substitution - they will give a field near the water basin. They will become owners of municipal farmland on the lake shore instead. Why is all this necessary? The answer is very easy - although the building is included in the Durankulak Lake Protected Area Management Plan, it is better to be outside the area given the hotel ambitions of Simeonov. The regimes for the development of tourist business are much lighter when you do not have to comply with the PAA adopted in 1998. The municipal property, with which "Le Balkan" acquires is outside the protected area.
The Municipal Council of Shabla approved the substitution on September 14, 1999. This is how the road to the hotel business of the environmentalist Pavel Simeonov has cleared. But in 2010, the MOEW included the hotel in a Natura 2000 protected area. There was no problem - the building was erected earlier and was not in violation of the law at least. From the "ecological" point of view the situation was - at best - strange. Simeonov was part of the movement, claiming that the investments in Natura 2000 cannot be made, let alone the construction of hotels. According to "environmentalists" this violates the habitats of the species. But for their people it is obviously allowed because Pavel Simeonov has a hotel in Natura 2000.
Today, the hotel operates full year round and probably wins quite well thanks to another fact: there is a "green" info center in the building of Shabla Municipality. It was created with the support of the Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds (BSPB), part of the Coalition "Let nature remain in Bulgaria". Before the hotel was built, they sent their opinion in which they supported the construction of Simeonov's building.
The municipal unit employs employees who are paid by the local budget. Officially they should stimulate the development of tourism in the area by organizing events and awareness campaigns. Sources from the local government said that the main activity of the municipal staff is quite different - when tourists come, they point them to Simeonov's hotel with the recommendation that this is the best place to stay around. Why they do that is not clear.
The hotel on the shore of Durankulak Lake is a 3-star category, "Trud" learned. The permit issued by Shabla municipality expires in 2021. The snack bar is also categorized by two stars. It has 20 indoor seats and even more outdoor seats - next to the protected species.
The investigation reveals the double standard of "environmentalists" when it comes to protected areas and areas. If they followed their own argumentation that in Natura 2000 could not be developed any human activities (which is an absolute lie for racketeering over a state and business), then "Le Balkan" Foundation had long ago to cease its hotel business. Still, they are "environmentalists", not businessmen.
The question now arises as to whether the responsible institutions will initiate inspections of Pavel Simeonov to see if everything about the substitutions, the hotel and his tourist activity is within the law.
"Status - endangered species" - such a movie was broadcast by bTV in March. Author is reporter Borislav Lazarov, who declared heroes "environmentalists" from the Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds (BSPB) operating in the region of Shabla. The reason for this laudatory report was their work on the conservation of the red-breasted goose.
In television, they have clearly missed the fact that BSPB environmentalists had access to 2.6 million euros of funding from Brussels to look after this endangered species. What they have done, nobody knows. One fact is beyond dispute - despite the huge funding, the bird population continued to decline.
The film about "environmentalists" was paid by the EC, they replied for "Trud" from the European Commission representation in Bulgaria. They have had a contract with the Bulgarian National Radio, a website and BTV for the information campaign "EU: more protected together".
The European Commission representation in Bulgaria is not aware of how much money is given to BTV for lauds addressed to "environmentalists" - the total funding for Bulgaria is 40,000 euros and is distributed by the company responsible for the information campaign.