We retired the paper travel ticket, only 1/3 of the passengers use it now, says the chairman of the SOS
– Mr. Georgiev, the new political season of the Metropolitan Municipal Council begins. What are the priorities at work?
– Today is the first meeting of the municipal council after the summer vacation. I expect that colleagues have recharged their batteries, because the last year of our mandate is starting, and we still have a lot of work to do. I hope that the pre-election campaign and the slogans stay out of the SOS hall and that we stick to the hard-to-achieve constructive tone in the debates. Because the citizens expect from us concrete solutions to pressing issues, not politicking. We are the local authorities closest to the citizens and every day we appear in elections before them with our every action. Sofia is developing and taking on the appearance of a modern European capital. I thank all colleagues with whom we achieve good results for the city. I also thank the citizens who love their capital and treat their surroundings and problems with care. I also thank the critics who kindly point out mistakes and with their help we improve our solutions. I don’t want to sound like a utopian, but I see a new urban culture and rhythm of life in Sofia. This gives me hope that with common efforts we can live better. It is important that people feel in the local government a partner, a stable institution that works for them. This is my understanding of running the city for the benefit of the people.
Already today, we will once again consider the regulation on movable objects, which was returned by the previous Acting Regional Governor of Sofia. In my opinion, due to a misunderstanding of the legal matter. With the new rules
we put an end to hanging cables, the unsecured facilities, threatening people’s lives
The other important topic that cannot be delayed is the introduction of low-emission zones – small and large ring. The restriction of movement in the center of the most polluting cars – over 20 years old with diesel engines and over 30 years old with gasoline engines. It is a mystery to me why this measure does not yet find the necessary support from other parties.
– Why do you insist that the municipalities get legislative rights and participate in ensuring road safety by giving them the opportunity to fine road violators?
– With the National Association of Municipalities, we are formulating proposals for legislative changes. In our opinion, traffic safety in cities will be significantly improved if local authorities are allowed to use traffic cameras to penalize unscrupulous drivers. Thus, the thousands of municipal cameras located throughout the country will be used to impose fines for speeding, crossing a red light and driving on a prohibited street. That is, for these 3 such obvious violations, the cameras should become a means of control, and not just detect them. The fines will go into the municipal budgets and will be used purposefully to improve road safety. This measure will primarily be disciplinary for drivers and I expect a drastic drop in violations.
– You are the vice-chairman of the interdepartmental group, which must draw up measures for the recovery of “Heating – Sofia”. Is returning property to the state an option?
– The question is not whether it will be state or municipal, but what will change if we transfer it to the state? And there is no question of privatizing the company. How, however, if the state becomes a shareholder, will the service be guaranteed for the people of Sofia and its affordable price – these are the important questions to which we expect an answer from the Minister of Energy. The state is the economic operator of the company – it determines at the entrance at what price it should buy the natural gas and at the exit – how much the heat produced with it should cost. The other energy carriers are compensated – electricity and fuel for the cars with the measure “25 cents per liter”, I do not understand why the blue fuel is not compensated. Everyone who uses natural gas suffers from this, not only “Toplofikatsia – Sofia”. These companies are already being supported all over Europe – the heating company of Vienna is seeking 6 billion euros in compensation from the state, the largest German company – over 14 billion euros. This phenomenon is not Sofia’s and it needs an urgent national solution. We have been talking about it tirelessly for 1 year. But we have already signed a contract between “Heating – Sofia” and “Bulgargaz” for supplies for the whole of 2023.
– When the state budget was updated, urban transport received additional funding. Will the funds reach the end of the year as fuel prices continue to rise, and could there be line shutdowns?
– Unfortunately, this problem was not solved by the previous regular government. Thanks to the opposition MPs, we received half of the required amount, but the funds are not enough. The investments we are making in improving the service and in the large-scale digitization of vehicle documents are enormous. The truth is that Sofia’s public transport became a victim of the war between the institutions under the previous government. In such cases, the victims are always the citizens. That’s why we have to be very careful about who makes what promises and who can fulfill them.
Traveling by public transport has improved significantly in recent years. Behind all these improvements is a lot of administrative work. In the last 1 year, we made a digital revolution with the new ways of buying transport cards – online and with bank cards. We have retired the paper ticket – it is only 1/3 of all tickets sold.
– Why is it important for the capital to have a low-emission zone?
– For clean air, one must vote with a clear conscience. Municipal councilors succumbed to populism on the eve of early parliamentary elections. Some say that the measures are not restrictive enough, others – why will the socially weakest of our fellow citizens suffer. And we offer the golden mean. The introduction of low emission zones is
widespread and effective European measure to combat dirty air
The proposed regulatory document gives sufficiently long periods to adapt to the new rules and applies only to the months with the most polluted air.
– You initiated the creation of the first legal clinic for victims of domestic violence. This is another social cause of yours.
– One of the good sides of the position I hold is that I can offer solutions for which I had no leverage as a lawyer before. The fight against domestic violence is not new to me, but I am extremely proud that I was able to realize this idea with the help of my colleagues. I thank all the municipal councilors who supported the idea and in Sofia, after many conversations with experts and studies, we adopted a program and created the country’s first legal clinic for women and children who have suffered or are at risk of domestic violence. On the hotline of the “Animus” foundation and on the website of the municipality, there are contact points where anyone with a similar problem, regardless of whether they are from Sofia, can seek help. Will get free consultation from a lawyer, lawyers can sue for a restraining order.
We have also created another sheltered housing for free accommodation of women and children for up to 6 months in a secret room in Sofia.
– Sofia was recognized as the world capital of sports. With what activities will you try to attract more Sofians to mass sports?
– Sofia awarded the title it received in 2018 of being the European capital of sports, and we can now be proud that in 2024 it will also be the world capital. This obliges us to continue the intensive development of the sports urban environment. For the first time in winter, Sofia will have an ice park, similar to the one in Vienna. It will be in the Prince’s Garden opposite Sofia University. A large part of the lanes will be iced, the many forks and turns will give pleasure to winter sports lovers.
– Tomorrow is Sofia’s Day. What is your message to the people of Sofia?
– First of all, I want to congratulate everyone on the holiday and wish them to continue to love and care for their capital. Since 30 September 17, we have been celebrating Sofia Day. We will have a ceremonial session where we will present the awards to the honorary citizens. There will be many celebrations and entertainment for young and old in the parks. Sofia’s holiday is a time to remember that only united we can overcome difficulties. I thank all colleagues – in the municipal council, regional administrations and in municipal companies, for the responsible work. I also thank the citizens for their commitment. Sofia grows, but does not age, and it is in this motto that faith, hope and love in our common future in our beautiful city. Happy Holidays to everyone! Stay healthy and may Saint Sophia and her daughters protect us!