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Bulgaria seeks to change EU-funded recovery plan over coal

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SOFIA, Bulgaria (AP) — Bulgaria’s Parliament on Thursday decided to demand that country’s government renegotiate the energy part of an EU-funded post-pandemic recovery plan, to save the country’s coal-fired power plants from closure.

Lawmakers voted 187-2 with nine abstentions to approve a revision of the plan, which is key to receiving 6.3 billion euros in EU funding from the bloc’s post-COVID recovery stimulus package.

During the vote in Parliament, several hundred miners and energy workers gathered outside the building to demand guarantees for their jobs. The protest, organized by the country’s two largest trade unions, remained peaceful.

Under the decision, the government will have to move away from its commitment to make 40% cuts in its 2019 level of carbon emission by the end of 2025 and will seek guarantees that coal plants can continue operating without restrictions at least until 2038.

The government has until the end of March to file a formal request for renegotiating the national recovery plan with the European Commission.

Nearly half of electricity in the Balkan country of 7 million is produced by coal-fired power plants, while a further 35% comes from nuclear energy. The rest is covered by hydroelectric, solar and wind generation.

The financial burden of reducing carbon emissions poses a huge challenge to Bulgaria, which has one of the lowest gross domestic products per capita in the EU.

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