MINELRES: ERRC: European Committee finds Bulgaria in violation of right to social assistance

minelres@lists.microlink.lv minelres@lists.microlink.lv
Tue Aug 11 17:18:43 2009

Original sender: European Roma Rights Centre <errc@errc.org>

European Committee finds Bulgaria in violation of right to social

Strasbourg, 6 August 2009: In a ruling made public today, the European
Committee of Social Rights (ECSR) unanimously found that Bulgaria is in
violation of the European Social Charter by failing to meet its
obligations to ensure that any person who is without adequate resources
has access to the social assistance provided by the state. The ruling
was issued in response to a collective complaint filed by the European
Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) in 2008, in cooperation with the Bulgarian
Helsinki Committee (BHC), regarding the 2006 and 2008 amendments of the
Bulgarian Social Assistance Act (SSA) which drastically limit the time
citizens are eligible for social assistance. The complaint argued that
these limitations had an illegal and disproportionate impact on Roma,
women and other marginalised groups. 

In its decision, the Committee highlighted that “access [to social
assistance] cannot be made subject to time-limits, if the persons
affected continue to meet the basic condition for eligibility
established by Article 13§1. Reducing or suspending social assistance
benefits may only be in conformity with the Charter if they do not
deprive persons in need of their means of subsistence.” The Committee
concluded that “social assistance must be provided as long as need
persists to enable the person concerned to continue to live in manner
compatible with their human dignity.” The Committee also found that the
amendments to the SAA are likely to have a considerable impact upon the
most disadvantaged groups, especially Roma.

Welcoming the ruling, Krassimir Kanev, Chair of the BHC, stated: “The
ruling of the Committee is logical and fully consistent with its
approach to the right to social assistance. In order to comply with it,
the government of Bulgaria has to amend the SAA and restore the
situation before the amendment of 2006, i.e. to make social assistance
dependent only on the existence of individual needs, with no time

Robert Kushen, ERRC Managing Director, noted: “We welcome the ruling by
the Committee and are mindful of its significant implications for social
welfare systems throughout Europe.  The Committee has rejected the
government’s argument that rigid time limits are necessary to reduce
dependency on social assistance.  The Committee’s ruling compels all
parties to the European Social Charter to maintain an individualized
approach to assessing need and to continue providing social assistance
as long as that need remains.”  

The full text of the European Committee of Social Rights decision in
Collective Complaint No. 48/2008, European Roma Rights Centre v.
Bulgaria, is available on the ERRC website: www.errc.org. The Bulgarian
government must report on this issue to the Committee until the problems
at issue in the decision are resolved.

For further information, please contact: 

Robert Kushen, ERRC Managing Director, rob.kushen@errc.org 

Krassimir Kanev, BHC Chairman, krassimir@bghelsinki.org

Background information 

The European Committee of Social Rights supervises implementation of the
European Social Charter and the Revised European Social Charter. Further
information on the Committee and the Charters is available HERE: 
http://www.coe.int/t/dghl/monitoring/socialcharter/default_en.asp .

Brought by the ERRC, Complaint No. 48/2008 alleged violations of
Articles 13§1 and E of the Revised Social Charter. The full text of the
complaint is available HERE:
http://www.errc.org/db/02/82/m00000282.pdf . 

The European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) is an international public
interest law organisation engaging in a range of activities aimed at
combating anti-Romani racism and human rights abuse of Roma. The
approach of the ERRC involves, in particular, strategic litigation,
international advocacy, research and policy development, and training of
Romani activists. This is the 4th collective complaint that the ERRC has
won under the Social Charter mechanism. More information about the ERRC
is available at: 

The Bulgarian Helsinki Committee (BHC) is an independent
non-governmental organisation for the protection of human rights -
political, civil, cultural and social. The goal of the BHC is to promote
respect and protection for the human rights of every individual, to
lobby for legislative change to bring Bulgarian legislation in line with
international standards, to encourage public debate on human rights
issues, and to popularise and make widely human rights instruments. The
BHC is engaged in human rights monitoring, strategic litigation,
advocacy, research, and human rights education. More information about
the organisation and its publication are available online at: 


The European Roma Rights Centre is an international public interest law
organisation which monitors the human rights situation of Roma and
provides legal defence in cases of human rights abuse. For more
information about the European Roma Rights Centre, visit the ERRC on the
web at http://www.errc.org 

To support the ERRC, please visit this link:

European Roma Rights Centre
1386 Budapest 62
P.O. Box 906/93
Tel: +36.1.413.2200

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