Bulgaria’s National Assembly has approved the second reading of amendments to the Black Sea Coast Act that ban camping and parking 100 metres from beach shoreline, although sleeping on the beach for a night will be allowed.
An initial version of the amendment would, had it not been withdrawn, also outlawed sleeping overnight on the beach.
Fines for breaking the ban will be from 1000 to 10 000 leva (about 500 to 5000 euro) for individuals and from 10 000 to 50 000 leva for juristic persons.
The debate and vote on the second reading of the bill had been preceded by outrage among some Bulgarians against a ban on camping on the remaining relatively unspoilt “wild” beaches at places like Karadere and Irakli, beaches that for years have been the subject of battles over plans to build permanent resorts there, to the annoyance of nature conservationists and those that want the places untrammelled.
Recent years have seen extensive construction along Bulgaria’s Black Sea coastline, especially of large-scale multi-storey projects directly largely towards the foreign mass market.
Karadere, Irakli and the Coral camping area have been seen among conservationists and those who abhor large-scale all-inclusive tourism as among the very few remaining outposts that are not only unspoilt but also accessible for people who want a close-to-nature experience by the seaside.
Against this background, MPs participating in the debate, including some of those who had been behind the proposed outright ban, met with protesters at intervals during the suspension of debate. Reporters at the National Assembly said that periodically, these ad hoc talks became somewhat heated.
In the course of debate, Tourism Minister Nikolina Angelkova undertook that her ministry would come up with a closer legal definition of what constituted camping.
The protesters said that the ban on camping and parking would impede and confuse the concept of categorisation of beaches that the Tourism Ministry was meant to be preparing.
Reformist Bloc MP Naiden Zelenogorsk, who proposed the ban, showed reporters and conservationists photos of beaches blocked by cars and said that “30 per cent” of camping places did everything possible to keep the beaches clean, but the rest did not.
Angelkova said that the government could not practice a double standard, banning business but leaving cars parked on the dunes “and lots of refuse”. These words caused indignation among protesters who said that Irakli, Karadere and Coral were the cleanest beaches in Bulgaria.
The law as approved by Parliament provides that Coral, Karadere and Irakli not be given on concession or rented out, and any form of business activity is banned.
The idea is that preserve the beaches for “ecological tourism”, through conservation of biodiversity and ecosystems, with judicious use of natural resources and with no business being done in the area covered by the legislation.
In response to the version of the law approved by Parliament, a conservation group organised on Facebook a protest to be held at Sofia’s Eagle Bridge at 6.30pm on March 1.
(Photo of Irakli: Svilen Enev)