Officials Verify Signatures for Bulgaria Belene Referendum

Bulgarian officials have begun verifying thousands of petition signatures calling for a referendum on the government’s decision to abandon construction of the Belene nuclear plant.State workers will spend the next three months verifying the names, addresses and social security numbers of the 770,000 signatures on the petition, which was submitted by the opposition Socialist Party.

Plans to construct the Belene plant, which was to be built by Atomstroyexport, a subsidiary of Russia’s state-owned Rosatom, were cancelled in March after the government determined that the project was too costly. Building plans had moved forward in fits and starts for several years before the project was dropped.The construction of the 2000 MW plant would have cost €10.35 billion in the best case scenario, according to the estimates of HSBC bank, which was Bulgaria’s consultant on the project.

Sergey Stanishev, the leader of the Bulgarian Socialist Party, handed over the petition to the parliament on July 27, arguing that the country had already put too much money into the project to abandon it.

On August 1, Bulgaria’s Prime Minister Boyko Borisov and the ruling party GERB party voiced support for the referendum.

Lilyana Pavlova, Bulgaria’s Minister of Regional Development, said on Tuesday that the verification process, which will be carried out by the Directorate General of Civil Registration and Administrative Service, GRAO, would take at least three months.

If 500,000 signatures prove valid, the process will be halted and the state will proceed with the referendum.

Bulgaria’s parliament is required by law to schedule a referendum for any petition that is supported by at least 500,000 signatures. While lawmakers cannot refuse to hold a referendum if sufficient signatures are obtained, they can change the question without altering its meaning, which some believe may happen.

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