Prosecutor General Ivan Geshev calls off meeting with opposition leader over Pernik water crisis

Bulgaria’s Prosecutor General Ivan Geshev

Bulgaria’s Prosecutor General Ivan Geshev announced on Monday that he will not be meeting with opposition leader Korneliya Ninova as planned. The two were supposed to discuss the water crisis in Pernik.

The town’s main water supply, the Studena reservoir, is nearly dried out. Water restrictions were imposed November 18; about a month later the mayor declared a state of emergency. Before the holidays Geshev pledged he would personally oversee the indictment process regarding possible wrongdoing and mismanagement, which might have led to the draining of the reservoir. Reports emerged early on that the water had been redirected illegally for industrial purposes but whether those allegations will make it into actual indictments remains unclear. The head of the local water agency lost his job over the crisis but the two relevant ministers – of ecology and regional policy – both made clear they bare no responsibility in the case.

The crisis naturally made way for the opposition to criticize the ruling party concerning the way it manages the water supply. Before Ninova was supposed to meet with Geshev to discuss the water crisis, she also announced she would be holding a press conference following the consultations. This apparently annoyed Geshev and his office issued a statement canceling the meeting altogether. Clearly the Prosecutor General saw something deeply irregular in Ninova’s intention to hold a press conference, as his office cited in their statement that the "Prosecutor’s Office will not allow to be used for political gain," as reason for the cancelation.

Meanwhile, citizens of Pernik protested Sunday night demanding the water restrictions schedule be kept. According to protesters from Pernik’s district Tsarkva, households should have water daily during prescheduled times. Due to constant breakdowns, however, the district is permanently cut from the water supply. The head of the local police department attended the protests and attempted to calm the people, assuring them an investigation is underway and that results will be sent to the prosecutor’s Office on Monday.

The Prosecutor’s Office did include in Monday’s statement that it will keep citizens up to date with the progress of law enforcement on the matter but no concrete follow-up information on the case has been released.

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