Bulgarian MPs step away from beach camping, parking ban

Bulgaria’s National Assembly approved on April 7 2016 the first reading of a repeal of a controversial law banning camping and parking 100 metres from the shoreline of the country’s Black Sea beaches.

The second reading of the law imposing the ban was approved on March 1, having been tabled by MPs for Parliament’s largest party GERB and its coalition partner the Reformist Bloc.

The ban was followed by public protests and, while saying that he would promulgate it, head of state President Rossen Plevneliev said that he was asking the Constitutional Court to pronounce on the acceptability of the huge fines envisaged for breaking the ban.

Prime Minister Boiko Borissov, leader of GERB, intervened to tell his MPs to backtrack on the ban.

On April 7, MPs voted on the repeal, tabled by GERB MPs, approving the first reading by 75 votes, 17 against and with 14 abstentions.

If the second reading is approved, the legal situation will revert to what it was before, except that it will be changed again when Parliament deals with amendments to the Tourism Act to introduce a system of classification of beaches that will ultimately regulate whether camping is permissible.

The move to repeal was criticised by Takso Ermenkov, an MP for the opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party, who said that “20 people with tents at Orlov Most” (a reference to part of the public protests against the ban, when participants put up tents at a central Sofia boulevard, and numbered more than 20) had caused the government to feel this was enough to lift the ban.

Public broadcaster Bulgarian National Television said that there were no official statistics on the number of people who used campsites, but according to retailers, in 2015 about 50 000 people in Bulgaria bought camping equipment.

The issue of beach camping is linked to years of concern among environmental conservation organisations about the fate of Bulgaria’s beaches, many of which have seen large-scale mass-tourism projects, while there also have been attempts to put up projects at the country’s remaining “wild beaches”.

Lovers of camping, in response to the ban, have said that several of Bulgaria’s officially-recognised campsites at the Black Sea coast are in poor condition.

“Wild beach” camping is a significant part of a youth and alternative lifestyle sub-culture in Bulgaria, popular among those who reject going to mass-tourism resort hotels. Conservation activists who argued with those behind the original ban rejected allegations that their informal camping left huge amounts of litter on the beaches, saying that the vast majority of campers were careful to clean up after themselves.

(Photo: Fred Green/freeimages.com)



The Sofia Globe staff

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