Bulgarian Parliamentary Commission Say Cart Ban Aimed at Roma is Discrimination
20 November 2007
According to a 2 August 2007 report by the Czech Republic-based Romani news agency Romea, Sofia City Hall's ban imposed on the use of horse carts around the city of Sofia was declared a discriminatory policy by the Bulgarian Parliamentary Anti-Discrimination Commission. According to Romea, the Commission found that the policy limited the mobility of Sofia's Romani population and recommended that the ban be lifted. "Carts are listed as 'vehicles' under Bulgarian traffic rules so the ban is a form of segregation," Commission Deputy Chairman Lalo Kamenov stated on BTV television, adding that, "the inhabitants of the Filipovtsi Gypsy neighbourhood just outside Sofia cannot even cross the ringroad" around the city with their carts. Many of the Filipovtsi residents, who make ends meet by gathering scrap iron and transporting it on carts to recycling centers, will reportedly not be able to do so if the ban is maintained. Horse carts have long been banned in the city centre, but Roma who travel on carts rarely go downtown, and so this ban has never been disputed. The new ban will severely compromise the livelihood of many Roma, few of whom own cars. Sofia City Hall had two weeks to protest the ruling at the Supreme Administrative Court, but the municipal council adjourned until September for summer break. Soon thereafter, electoral campaigns for local elections will begin, so it was considered likely that this issue would not be discussed until 2008 and in the meantime the Romani community will suffer. Sofia Mayor Boyko Borisov said he would not lift the measure despite the Commission's recommendation to do so. Instead, he suggested that the Roma "turn their carts into carriages and attract tourists the way they do in Vienna."