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Bulgarians hit streets to protest fuel poverty

Thousands of Bulgarians protested yesterday against rising electricity and heating bills, with police clashing with demonstrators throwing eggs and tomatoes at government buildings.

Thousands of Bulgarians protested yesterday against rising electricity and heating bills, with police clashing with demonstrators throwing eggs and tomatoes at government buildings.

The violence occurred in capital city Sofia when riot police struggled to keep demonstrators away from public buildings, but no injuries were reported.

Similar rallies occurred in other cities, with some temporarily blocking traffic on major highways.

Earlier, the protesters in Sofia burned their utility bills, accusing the government of failing to improve their living standards and demanding the expulsion of the three foreign-controlled power distributors that dominate the market: CEZ and Energo-Pro from the Czech Republic, and Austria’s EVN.

In January, Albania revoked the licence of CEZ andannounced that electricity distribution would return to government control, but experts in Bulgaria have expressed doubt the government can legallydo that.

Bulgaria, which joined the European Union in 2007, is the bloc’s poorest member country, with an average monthly salary of €360 (£310) and an average pension of €150 (£129).

The ruling centre-right party of prime minister Boiko Borisov, which won parliamentary elections in 2009, has been steadily losing public support in the wake of the country’s worst economic downturn in a decade.

Elections in July are expected to be a close race between theincumbents and Socialists.

 

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