By MILENA HRISTOVA March 25, 2014
"We are wondering whether Norman Foster really knows what he's getting himself in to,” fumed Bulgarian environmentalists in the summer of 2008. Months earlier it had appeared that their small corner of paradise – Karadere beach – will be turned into a giant luxury vacation complex.
“We want to try to stop him from making the biggest mistake of his career by building here, because it's immoral and he might not know that."
What they managed to do is put a spanner in the controversial mega project's works and see it frozen in the summer of 2009.
But their words ring even truer now that the Socialist-led governemnt suddenly greenlighted the start of construction works of a series of “eco-villages" on the site of one of Bulgaria's most loved wild beaches.
Environmentalists have taken again to the streets, rallying against the project called Black Sea Gradens, while none other than top UK architect Sir Norman Foster, who drew up the plans for it, is back in the news.
Officially Norman Foster's first visit to Bulgaria at the end of 2007 had a very different goal - the opening of an exhibition of his works.
Miniature models, drafts and videos of existing buildings, as well as projects that were still under construction got displayed at the National Gallery for Foreign Art in Sofia.
The top architect personally showed his projects to the then Bulgaria's Prime Minister Sergey Stanishev.
It was months later that environmentalists raised the alarm: this is the great graft scheme of Georgii Stanishev, the brother of Prime Minister Sergey Stanishev, who is working together with Norman Foster. They've made a land swap deal with the government, and are now starting construction inside the NATURA 2000 network, the allegations in 2008 went.
These days the allegations came back to haunt they players.
Georgii Stanishev has been vehemently denying the allegations, protesting the fact that his name has been implicated in a graft scheme, claiming that he finished all he had to do in 2008 and the copyrights are owned by Norman Foster.
He also denies any conflict of interests, his brother Sergey currently being the leader of the ruling Socialist party and PES President.
The brothers do protest too much, say the project's opponents.
Their suspicions are backed by documents, cited by the site Bivol.bg, which show there is only one project and a contract, which is still in force.
With or without Sergey Stanishev's brother, nature lovers are even firmer than before not to let the project go ahead without a fight.
Good luck to them. And Norman Foster.