Sofia to ban horse-drawn carts for EU presidency

Sofia (AFP) –


Bulgaria's capital Sofia is drafting plans to rid the common sight of creaking horse-drawn carts from its streets in an effort to brush up its image for the country's EU presidency from January.

"The carts pose a serious risk for road accidents, they litter and, above all, no European capital allows them, apart for attraction purposes," Sofia City Council member Simeon Slavchev, who initiated the ban, told AFP on Thursday.

Under the current regulations, horse-drawn carts are only allowed on Sofia's outskirts but poor control of the restrictions makes the four-legged means of transport a regular sight even on the busiest downtown streets.

"The total ban to move in the area spanned by Sofia's ringroad will facilitate control. We also plan to confiscate not only the carts, which are relatively easy to make, but also the animals," Slavchev added.

The new measures were initially planned to take effect on January 1 when Bulgaria also takes up the rotating EU presidency for six months, 11 years after the ex-communist country joined the bloc.

The EU's poorest nation, and also its most corrupt according to watchdog Transparency International, will host a multitude of high-level meetings with guests from all 27 other member states.

But the municipality hit a snag in deciding where to shelter and how to use the confiscated animals so it expects to have the ban effective as of March 1.

"This will be the end of us. They will take our livelihood," Pavel Slavchev, 40, complained in the predominantly-Roma suburb of Fakulteta.

The man earns his daily bread by transporting coal and wood, construction materials or household refuse with his seven-year-old mare Maya.

"I've been doing this for eight years now, making a living. There's no other work and I don't see how we come in their way," he shrugged.

Unofficial data put the total number of registered carts in Sofia, one of the EU's most polluted capitals and estimated to be home to more than two million people, at about 400.