NGOs advocate for implementation of European Social Charter judgments in Bulgaria

05 March 2010

Sofia: At a workshop yesterday hosted by the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC), the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee (BHC) and the Bulgarian Committee for the Protection Against Discrimination, activists praised the efforts of the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare to expand coverage of social assistance and health insurance but insisted that more needed to be done to protect the rights of Roma and all Bulgarian citizens.

The workshop was convened to discuss the implementation of three decisions of the Council of Europe Committee of Social Rights in the areas of housing, health care and social assistance. In these decisions, dating from 2006 - 2009, the Committee found Bulgaria in violation of the European Social Charter for putting a time limit on the provision of social benefits and for failing to protect Roma from discrimination. The workshop was attended by numerous government officials, including Minister of Labour and Social Welfare Totyu Mladenov, as well as representatives of the Committee of Social Rights, human rights activists and Romani activists.

Civil society representatives noted the Government’s efforts to end the arbitrary time limit on social benefits and health insurance imposed in 2006, but expressed concern that a newly enacted law to restore benefits would not take effect until 2011. In response, Minister Mladenov pledged to provide targeted social assistance within the framework of other existing programmes to those in need.

Krassimir Kanev, Chairman of the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, said, “The government has not achieved significant progress in two areas. The first area is the access to medical insurance of socially vulnerable groups and the second is the possibility for eviction of people from their only home. In both areas there is a need for legislative change."

Participants in the workshop expressed disappointment that no progress had been made to address problems in the field of housing for Roma. They called on the government to simplify legalisation of informal settlements as a means to prevent eviction.

Rob Kushen, Managing Director of the European Roma Rights Centre, said, “As long as Romani families remain under the constant threat of eviction, they will never become fully integrated into Bulgarian society. The Committee of Social Rights identified numerous violations in Bulgarian law and practice related to housing and evictions, and we call on the Government to remedy these on an urgent basis.”

The ERRC and the BHC called on the Bulgarian government to undertake all the necessarily measures, including law reform, which will secure the country’s full compliance with the European Social Charter. The ERRC and the BHC will continue to monitor the situation of Roma in Bulgaria especially in the fields of access to social assistance, health care and housing.

For further information, please contact:

Krassimir Kanev, BHC Chairman,  +35 92 943 4876 Sinan Gokçen, ERRC Information Officer,  +36 30 500 1324


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