Bulgarian Demolition Derby - Part II
The clashes began at 2 am Monday morning.
A protest rally was staged in Bulgaria's ancient, coastal "Old Town" Nessebar, once one of the most beautiful historical and natural sites in the country, placed on UNESCO's world culture heritage list. The demonstrators were owners of illegal buildings - six houses and two shops slated for demolition by the State National Construction Control (DNSK).
About 100 people, waiving black flags and posters, and 50 automobiles blocked the bridge over the isthmus connecting the old part of the town with the new one.
Clashes between police and the demonstrators and four arrests occurred in the wee hours, after the authorities attempted to break the human fence. With daylight arriving, the fence was still there. Despite heavy police presence, clad in full battle gear, the buses bringing prisoners from the city of Burgas to carry out the demolition were unable to access the properties.
TV footage showed a crowd of angry and weary people pointing north, to Bulgaria's largest summer resort "Sunny Beach," shouting: "Why don't you go there to beat people up? Why don't you tear the hotels there down?"
The Nessebar Town Hall and the Mayor issued a declaration in support of local residents, asking for the move to be postponed for the spring so that people can have roofs on their heads during the upcoming very harsh winter, or so the weatherman keeps saying.
As in a true action movie, (Hollywood comes to mind very often since the GERB party took office, doesn't it?), in the afternoon gendarmes on foot got reinforcement by border police cutters attacking the rally from sea.(A video of the TV channel bTV can be seen here.)
In the late afternoon, the prisoners managed to reach the designated street. The day ended with two small shops being torn down.
Meanwhile, it became clear a class action suit had been filed with the Burgas Court against DNSK on the grounds the move comes right before the beginning of the winter; would leave families homeless and the demolition would damage legal construction as well.
The next day, Tuesday morning, police and prisoners were again present to continue their work, but nothing happened. Hours later, the owners announced they will dismantle illegal construction on their own. This same day, Prime Minister, Boyko Borisov, voiced strong criticism towards the demonstrators and reiterated the law must be enforced.
The voluntary demolition began Wednesday. When asked by a reporter why he built the now-nonexistent shops illegally, the owner replied: "Because everyone else did it." Others insist they tried on numerous occasions to legalize the construction; were given countless of promises, but nothing happened for years and years.
The self-inflicted destruction, however, did not go completely peacefully. Latest TV reports showed tires set on fire, burning right near the ancient fortress wall and their smoke mixing with the one from the improvised street barbecues, accompanying the work.
Meanwhile, Nessebar residents started a petition, demanding their Old Town is crossed out as a UNESCO's world cultural heritage site. They say they have reached an agreement that the negative aspects of the above greatly overwhelm the benefits.
Illegal construction and commercial activities in Nessebar have already almost cost the resort its UNESCO World Heritage status anyway. Along with the number of hotels and building additions, erected in violation of the law, in the last 20 years the town turned into a second-hand flea market with stands selling anything from Chinese-made trinkets to underwear, crowding the ancient streets.
The law must be enforced and GERB must be applauded for the will. It has been long-overdue.
However, after such a long wait, indeed why just before the start of the winter, and why these exact properties first, since the case actually involves several additional floors or decks? And with the use of so many police i.e. State resources and taxpayers money?
Let me reiterate – if the State begins to take down all illegal building additions, balconies, fences, pavilions, shops, shacks, booths, trailers, and sheds – we will have to wipe off half of the country and start rebuilding it all over again. But we might have a Civil War first as well.
What about the sprawling Roma ghettos and abandoned buildings where Roma squatters live? They are not only 100% illegal; they are also unsafe, but Roma, at least, can always count on political correctness and human rights activists.
What about illegal hotels and entire vacation villages all over the Black Sea coast that turned our once gorgeous beaches into a concrete jungle?
Remember the outrage of Prime Minister, Boyko Borisov, after seeing pictures taken by a helicopter of the National Revenue Agency, flying over luxurious properties, constructed illegally on State lands on the shore of the Ivaylovgrad dam? He vowed then all the villas will be demolished ASAP. Why not begin reinforcing the law precisely there?
No excuse for the Nessebar owners either – everyone who violates the law has to suffer the ensuing consequences. They had notices way before the approaching of winter. Their buildings MUST come down sooner or later, while those from the local administration, who due to inactivity and/or corruption let such construction happen, should face penalties as well.
As far as the petition to strike the town out of UNESCO's list – why don't we start a nation-wide referendum on crossing off our entire cultural and historical heritage so that we can freely turn our homeland into a ghetto and a flea market?
The Nessebar case shows once again what happens in a country where the law has not been enforced in 20 years; where people mistrust their State and its institutions; where the government is the enemy; where dodgers prosper while following the rules equals being stupid.
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