Bulgaria to backtrack on ban on camping on beaches

Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borissov has told his GERB party to table legislation to repeal a highly controversial ban, recently approved by Parliament, on camping and parking within 100 metres from the shoreline – and he has sought to shift the blame for the row on to minority coalition government partner the Reformist Bloc.

The ban was approved by Parliament on March 1 2016 when MPs approved the second reading of amendments to the Black Sea Act. The step, which also provides for huge fines for breaking the ban, has been promulgated by head of state President Rossen Plevneliev but he has referred the legislation to the Constitutional Court.

The ban provoked outrage and a number of public protests in Sofia and elsewhere. Plans are for protests to be held on March 14 at 6.30pm in central Sofia. Opponents of the ban said that the protests would go ahead in spite of Borissov’s announcement that the ban would be repealed.

A government media statement on March 14 said that GERB – the party that is the majority partner in government and holder of the largest single share of seats in the National Assembly – would table a repeal of the ban.

The repeal legislation would be drafted as soon as possible and would be tabled in Parliament on March 16, according to the government statement.

Borissov said that he had given orders for urgent action by the GERB parliamentary group to repeal the controversial passages of the law prohibiting tents and camping. He underlined that he had said the previous day that his party was not the author of the idea, but given “our coalition culture” GERB MPs had supported the last-minute amendments to the Black Sea Act providing for the ban.

Borissov added that rules and regulations would be established and the term “camping” defined.

On March 12, when President Plevneliev announced that he was referring the matter to the Constitutional Court, he said that measures against construction at the seaside were insufficient and he took a sideswipe at MPs for approving the camping and parking ban with insufficient consultation with the public.

There was further indignation on social networks at the weekend when reports said that the Ministry of Tourism had posted for comment a draft law that would extend the camping ban to Bulgaria’s mountains too. In effect, the ban would be on putting up tents anywhere outside registered official campsites.

Bulgarian National Radio said that protesters called for regulations to be drafted by experts, as was done in other European countries, and without a blanket ban. The protesters also pointed to the small number of registered campsites in Bulgaria and the fact that many were in poor condition.

Lubomir Popiordanov of the Bulgarian Association for Alternative Tourism said that over the years, the camping grounds at Bulgaria’s seaside and the mountains had been destroyed or sold off.

Bulgaria had been crossed off the map of world agencies dealing with motorhome and caravan holidays because it was hostile to people who travel and want to spend their holidays in this way, Popiordanov said.

The proposal should be sent back to the Ministry of Tourism and subjected to further debate and consideration by all interested parties, and only then should the country proceed to amending the Tourism Act, he said.

Popiordanov said that in Bulgaria, there were several new campsites offering good conditions – and which had been founded by foreigners. Bulgarian business people had no imagination when it came to tourism, he said.

Meanwhile, at the weekend – ahead of Borissov’s announcement of the backtrack – the Ministry of Tourism said that it was extending by two weeks the timeframe for public discussion on the proposals regarding laws on camping.

(Photo: Fred Green/freeimages.com)



The Sofia Globe staff

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