Bulgaria's Architectural Heritage is in Ruins Instead of Attracting Tourists

Society » CULTURE | March 6, 2019, Wednesday // 16:08| Views: | Comments: 0
Bulgaria: Bulgaria's Architectural Heritage is in Ruins Instead of Attracting Tourists The building of the Sugar Factory in Sofia is an emblematic example of imminent danger for over 90 per cent of the architectural monuments in Bulgaria

Complete administrative mess and chaotic management of documents about the architectural heritage of Bulgaria. A law on the preservation of cultural monuments, which not only does not apply, but for nine years it has not been developed the subordinate acts for the keeping of statistics and the implementation of the control over the condition of the immovable values. Carelessness on behalf of the Ministry of Culture, municipalities and private owners of cultural monuments, which are left to the mercy of time. Extremely insufficient funds from the state and municipal budgets for maintenance and preservation of these properties that are private property, but also not using the legal possibility of mortgaging them for repair or restoration.

These are the findings of an audit report by the Court of Auditors that assessed the effectiveness of the conservation and maintenance activities of urban heritage sites for the period from January 2015 to June 30, 2018, published on Wednesday.

Significant buildings decaying into oblivion

"The National Audit Office undertook this audit after a number of media publications and reports over the last few years have signaled the deprivation of Bulgarian cities from a huge part of their valuable architectural heritage." Hundreds of houses and buildings with impressive architectural styles are being demolished, new buildings that often have nothing to do with the surrounding architectural environment take their place. Buildings with the status of cultural monuments have been abandoned for years and self-destruct. No real steps have been taken to oblige owners of old buildings to maintain and keep them in adequate shape. As a result, old neighborhoods in the cities are abandoned instead of being filled with spirit and history and a become a preferred tourist destination, "the auditing agency said.

Their findings confirm those from Mediapool's series of articles on the cultural heritage of Sofia, Plovdiv, Varna and Veliko Tarnovo.

The analysis recognizes that the budget allocates ten times less money to the Ministry of Culture for the actual preservation of the architectural heritage than to develop policies to protect it. If government money for maintenance of cultural monuments is 3 percent of the total budget of the Ministry of Culture, for policies go between 26 and 32 percent, the report writes. However, there is a threefold increase in maintenance money for architectural buildings - from 500,000 to 1,5 million leva, the document reads

According to it, the funds earmarked for the budget of the Ministry for the program "Preservation of the Real Cultural Heritage" are only 14 per cent of the needed.

 Law for the sake of appearances and lack of sub-normative acts

The audit also finds that over nine years after the entry into force of the Cultural Heritage Act, a national strategy for its management and conservation has not yet been adopted. Not many of the subordinate acts under the law have been adopted, which has been amended many times since 2009, but there is no such amendment.

The only body working in this specific area and extremely inefficient both for state and municipal administrations and for the private owners of buildings architectural heritage is the National Institute of Real Cultural Heritage. It fails to cope with collecting, summarizing and analyzing data on the state of architectural monuments in the country.

Of the declared 39 476 immovable cultural objects, of which 19 438 were architectural and building works, of which 355 were of national importance, under one quarter they received cultural property status. Not all 14,780 declared architectural monuments have ever been evaluated as to whether they really are.

The Old Age Institute - archaic and ineffective

There are still no defined regimes for the protection of 93 per cent of the sites with a status of immovable cultural property. The same applies to 98 per cent of the declared sites, which have not been evaluated and the properties of cultural property are valued. "And defining the conservation regime of an object is crucial because it regulates the exact location and area of ​​the site, the area surrounding it, which is protected by the law, the permissible interventions in the site and the layout and conditions of use in their territories, and security zones, "explained by the National Audit Office.

Among the reasons for the ineffective work of NINKN is that it has no territorial units, and with the Ministry of Culture do not provide electronic services, noted the National Audit Office.

The cultural heritage is in danger also because its protection is the responsibility of many bodies and structures at national and regional level, with vague, inaccurate and incompletely defined powers and responsibilities - regional governors, municipalities, culture minister, environment minister and the Ministry of Regional Development and Public Works, the Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church and the central leaderships of other denominations.

There are no rules and resources for checking how buildings are maintained

At the same time, the Minister of Culture has not established rules for carrying out checks on the state of architectural monuments, the number of inspectors to deal with this activity and the types of control measures that would be imposed in the case of an established infringement.

"For example, an average of 3000 sites per year are taken care by just one expert at the National Institute for Immovable Cultural Heritage for Monitoring, and in the period 2015-2018 there is no monitoring of the real estate of the cultural heritage, including architectural sites in urban with the exception of several sites of "world importance" category - the ancient town of Nessebar, the Ivanovo Rock Churches, the Madara Horseman, the Rila Monastery, "said in the audit report. 
A serious problem is also pointed out that the mechanisms for coercion of owners of such buildings do not apply to keep them in good condition. It is possible, with an order of the Minister of Culture or of the mayor of the municipality on an endangered property cultural heritage to enter a legal mortgage in favor of the state or the municipality, to secure the claim for their expenses. By September 2018, however, there was no data in the Ministry of Culture that this mechanism of cultural heritage maintenance had been implemented.

The Court of Auditors points out, as an interesting fact, that the cultural heritage has been the subject of protection since the establishment of the Bulgarian state. Temporary rules for the protection of the inheritance were adopted already in 1888, the Old Age Act was in force in 1911, and in 1937 a registration regime was introduced for the first time to preserve the old buildings in the settlements.

The Office has made 15 recommendations to the Culture Ministry to improve the control of cultural heritage and to take measures to protect it.

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