Despite the surprise visits of the Minister of Culture to Plovdiv yesterday on two occasions, one of which happened late in the evening, this morning the demolition of the tobacco warehouse at the corner of “GM Dimitrov” and “Exarch Yosif” streets continued, the Plovdiv website reported “Under the hill”.
And at two parallel press conferences held in Sofia and Plovdiv, the acting minister Velislav Minekov and the mayor of Plovdiv Zdravko Dimitrov (GERB) expressed their positions on the case, which, although quite different from each other, once again outlined the existence of a serious problem with the way the National Institute for Immovable Cultural Heritage has been functioning for years.
New demolitions of tobacco warehouses
The scandal with the destruction of the emblematic buildings gained strength again in recent days, after the demolition of the tobacco warehouse of Kocho Popov and brothers K.P. first began on August 25. Mihalovi, and yesterday an excavator entered a second warehouse in the Tobacco town of Plovdiv – the one on “GM Dimitrov” and “Exarch Yosif” streets. The same building suffered a fire 6 years ago.
The demolition activities on the two buildings are carried out according to the “Safety and Health Plan” of the municipality of Plovdiv, as a document for them was issued by the “Central” district. The plan dates back to the end of last year, but the investor has decided to implement it now. The owner of the first building is the company “Capital Holding Group”, and of the second – “Galaxy Investment Group”.
The warehouses are included in a list of buildings in Plovdiv, which they expect from the National Institute of Civil Engineering to classify them as cultural monuments. Already on November 5, 2021, the municipality of Plovdiv was notified that the institute had started a procedure for preparing a final assessment and regimes for the protection of individual architectural and construction immovable cultural values in the historical area “Filipopol-Trimontsium-Plovdiv”. However, the local administration has issued a so-called “Safety and Health Plan” which effectively gives the go-ahead for the demolition of the buildings.
The position of the Minister of Culture
Today, at the press conference at the Ministry of Culture, Minekov stated that he will not allow this destruction, which is a trend that has lasted for years. According to him, the owners of these buildings should be aware that they have made a risky investment. They must follow all the recommendations of the National Institute of National Statistics of Ukraine and everything else that is included in the law.
According to the official minister of culture, with only two or three amendments to the law on immovable cultural heritage, as well as to the activity of the National Institute of Cultural Heritage, the situation with the tobacco warehouses in Plovdiv would not have come to this today. Such proposals were made by Minekov’s team during his previous term as caretaker minister, but none of them reached the National Assembly’s culture committee in recent months. He announced that on the very first day of the next parliament he would take the proposals to the committee with a request for immediate action.
As the main problem, the minister pointed out the number of specialists working in the National Institute of Health, which has not increased for years. The institute has been reduced to 45 people, of which only 11 have the right to an opinion. At the moment alone, 6,000 files are expected to be processed by this team, and the objects for conservation in Bulgaria are 40,000. Digitization of the institute’s archive is also missing. According to Minekov, the number of employees at the National Institute of National Statistics, as well as its budget, must be increased sharply in order for its work to be effective. And also the starting salaries of the specialists in it.
When asked by “Capital” whether the documents issued by the Plovdiv municipality and authorizing the demolition of the tobacco warehouses should be coordinated with the Ministry of Culture, Minekov categorically answered that this is necessary. And he said that he sent a letter to the Minister of Internal Affairs, Ivan Demerdzhiev, in which he explained exactly what was happening in Plovdiv, that there were illegal actions, and asked him for the cooperation of the police in Plovdiv so that the destruction was stopped.
Minekov also announced that today he will hold a public discussion on the preservation of cultural heritage in Plovdiv, inviting citizens, representatives of the media, as well as candidates for parliament at 5 p.m. at the site of the former tobacco warehouse, on Hristo Botev Blvd. 51.
The position of the mayor of Plovdiv
For his part, at a parallel press conference in Plovdiv, the mayor of the city, Zdravko Dimitrov, transferred all responsibility and blame to the National Institute for Immovable Cultural Heritage and to “one family” for the demolition of the tobacco warehouses.
He insisted that the municipality had acted within the law by issuing “Safety and Health Plans” with the help of which the buildings, part of a group cultural value, were destroyed. According to him, the National Institute of National Statistics of Ukraine has delayed documents for a long time, and “projects for BGN 5 billion” were waiting for approval from the institute.
Dimitrov added that he could not ignore dangerous buildings and gave an example of the “ugly building” on Avksentiy Veleshki Street and Hristo Botev Street. “If it falls, it will reach the other end of the boulevard – what will the consequences be then for me and the owners. Will Petkana come to justify me,” asked Dimitrov, referring to arch. Petkana Bakalova.
“Pod tepete” specifies that arch. Bakalova, who yesterday stood alone in front of the excavators at the intersection of “G.M. Dimitrov” and “Exarch Yosif” streets, is part of this “one family” on which the mayor of Plovdiv laid part of the blame for the events and which , according to him, was disposed of in Tobacco City. Bakalova’s husband is the director of the National Academy of Sciences arch. Peter Petrov.
In this way, Zdravko Dimitrov justified the issuance of the permits for the demolition of the tobacco warehouses at 51 “Hristo Botev” Street and the intersection of “G.M. Dimitrov” and “Exarch Yosif”.
The mayor also partly blamed the Ministry of Culture, which had not increased the staff of the National Institute of Culture, which is why the current delays in project approvals by the institute were also occurring. But according to Dimitrov, not only the current Minister of Culture, Velislav Minekov, was to blame – the problem had been building up for years.
“We are the municipality of Plovdiv to comply with the laws. I understood that there will be an inspection. Let there be an inspection, we are for it. But an investor cannot have bought a building that is not a cultural monument and, having decided to invest, suddenly they say that it will become a cultural monument,” added Zdravko Dimitrov.