It has been 14 years since Bulgaria agreed to close the four old nuclear reactors at its Soviet-built nuclear power plant on the Danube River. And it's taken as long for it to argue with the EU before finally shutting them down.
The pro-Kozloduy argument in Bulgaria became a political game, in which one of the players was weak and unpredictable, the other - powerful and increasingly stubborn.
The Swiss psychologist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross has described the process of death as having five stages: anger, denial, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Kozloduy went through all of these.
In its rage against the EU, the nuclear lobby unleashed a torrent of accusations, accusing it of political interference in domestic issues. It also turned against the national authorities, depriving two decent governments of popularity.
In the stage of denial, there were appeals to stop membership negotiations with the EU. Then the bargaining came, bringing up far too late a number of plausible and implausible arguments in this political battle. But, after a 10 year history of broken promises and untrustworthy behaviour on the part of Bulgaria, these arguments fell on deaf ears. Depression had become visible by the end: Bulgaria is a loser, it will not be able to recover from this blow, other countries will take over its position as leader in the regional energy market.
The acceptance phase came incredibly late, in the early hours of 31 December 2006. Although the formal agreement had been reached two and a half years before, the nuclear lobby continued to try to save the old reactors until the very last moment. Only several weeks earlier Minister of Energy Rumen Ovcharov had appealed again to the EU to reconsider its demand for closure, this time riding the wave of energy crisis fears in the Balkans.
One could say there was nothing wrong with this epic battle of one nation pitted against the EU. But there was. The battle was presented as a national one, when in fact it mainly concerned the interests of a business group. A great deal of financial resources were spent on the modernisation of what had been evaluated as "non-upgradeable at reasonable cost", and a lot of public energy was spent on defending the interests of an economic enterprise which did not even have the decency to make its activities sufficiently transparent. Finally, public views on the current energy situation in Bulgaria were systematically and deliberately distorted.
And while these negative aspects of the Kozloduy debacle now lie in past, there is one upshot of the whole situation that is still to come, and will be here to stay. It's name is "Belene".
Drawing on the fervour which the battle for Kozloduy created in society, the nuclear lobby, assisted by its members in the government, is pushing forward a project of a decidedly suspicious nature, in a decidedly questionable way: the construction of the Belene Nuclear Power Plant.
Respected economists have repeatedly stressed that there is no economic need to build a new nuclear power plant. Ecologists have also fought against the project, pointing at a number of irregularities that occurred in fulfilling requirements to ensure the safety of the plant.
But, as is usually the case in Bulgaria, such outcries seldom result in any meaningful or lasting consequences. The state authorities responsible go ahead with a tender that was not publicly discussed or approved, but which will affect many generations to come. As the old Bulgarian saying goes, "the dogs may bark, but the caravan moves on."
So, it may be quite some time before we have another reason to exclaim: "Finally!", and reach true closure and ultimate acceptance.