Bulgaria Parliament Adopts Controversial Cultural Heritage Act

Domestic | October 7, 2009, Wednesday // 19:59|  views

Bulgaria's Deputy Culture Minister, Todor Chobanov, claims the amendments of the Culture Heritage Act do not favor illegal collectors. Photo by BGNES

Bulgaria’s Parliament adopted Wednesday the amended Cultural Heritage Act with 128 votes in favor, 55 against, and 7 abstaining.

The new version of the law was supported by the ruling GERB party and its right-wing partners Ataka and the Blue Coalition, whereas the Bulgarian Socialist Party and the ethnic Turkish Party DPS opposed it claiming it served corporate interests and private collectors, and would serve to destroy whatever is left of Bulgaria’s archaeological and cultural heritage. The conservative RZS party abstained.

The new law disposes the National Institute for Preservation of the Cultural Heritage from its powers and transfers them to the Culture Ministry.

The other major provision that caused a heated debate and bitter controversy stipulates the abolition of the requirement to present an “official document” proving the origin of cultural heritage items.

The newly adopted draft removes “official” from the text of the act. Last week, Bulgaria’s Constitutional Court declared the article of the previously existing unamended act containing the term “official document” unconstitutional. The Court said it deprived people of their personal property if they could not provide such a document, which in many cases proved impossible.

Bulgaria’s Deputy Culture Minister Todor Chobanov has declared that the issue of the “official document” had been exaggerated. In his words, it is not true that under the new wording, any collector could any declare ownership over any cultural item, and it would thus become their property.

Chobanov has argued that if the prosecutors found that any items were acquired illegally, for example through treasure hunting activities, they would start the respective punitive procedures. In fact, many such investigations and cases have already started, the Deputy Minister said.

Chobanov has also argued that the removal of “official” from the wording of the law actually would rectify the unconstitutionality of the whole article in the older draft of the law.

The Deputy Minister assured the MPs that the government would do whatever is necessary in order to impose a strict regime over the preservation of the country’s cultural heritage.

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Tags: Todor Chobanov, Deputy Minister, Cultural Heritage Act, treasure hunting, collector, archaeology, cultural heritage


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