No final decision has been taken for the privatization of the postal service state-owned company "Bulgarian Posts EAD", the transport minister has said amid vehement protests from employees, trade unions and opposition leaders.
"The company will be taken off the list of firms, whose privatization is banned, just so that we can have that option available as well," Minister Ivaylo Moskovski said.
The amendments to the privatization law were tabled and adopted on the last day of June by the economic committee in parliament with the votes of MPs from the ruling GERB party.
They were harshly criticized by the opposition Socialist party, the right-wing Union of Democratic Forces, who were until recently an ally of the ruling party, but not any more, and representatives of the trade unions, who saw them as the first step towards the company's privatization and serving hidden interests.
"We believe that behind the privatization of "Bulgarian Posts" there are hidden personal interests and a plot hatched in advance. We will not support it. There are enough other companies, which are slated for privatization and with a good reason, such as Bulgartabac and the Bulgarian Stock Exchange," UDF leader Martin Dimitrov said at a press conference.
According to him the ruling party will make a grave mistake if it proceeds with the postal services privatization as it would have serious consequences.
"GERB missed the opportunity to carry out the much needed reforms. We supported them at the beginning because we wanted to see those reforms implemented, but two years later, there are no results," said Dimitrov, referring to the second anniversary since the cabinet of Boyko Borisov stepped into office.
Trade unionists say that about 5,000 people will be left without a job should the company be sold.
The controversy comes about half a year after Bulgaria's parliament approved amendments, which demonopolized the postal services market.
Thus, as of January 1, 2011, the monopoly of Bulgarian Posts on small parcels – less than 50grams – was eliminated.
At the same time, the law assigned to the state company the universal postal services in the country for a period of 15 years based on the fact that Bulgarian Posts is the only entity in Bulgaria which has the infrastructure to provide these kinds of services. Their performance will be inspected and evaluated every 5 years.
Postal Services would remain the main operator for the entire country for the next 15 years and would be subsidized by the State budget when they incur "unjust financial burdens."
The initial plan was to open the market in the beginning of 2009, but on the concerns of the Posts that private competition would take over its most lucrative segments, it was postponed by 2 years.
The amendments were prompted by an EU directive, providing for the full liberalization of postal markets in Member States by the end of 2012.