16th July 2015: In the first case on anti-Roma discrimination to come before the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), the Bulgarian electricity company CHEZ Razpredelenie Bulgaria AD has been condemned by judges for “offensive and stigmatizing” practices that violate European anti-discrimination laws.
For 15 years CHEZ had been placing electricity meters as high as seven metres above the ground and out of reach of consumers in districts where most customers are Roma. Although supposedly for reasons of safety and to prevent interference, the residents of the affected districts challenged the practice as illegal and a public statement that all residents are untrustworthy. In its findings, the Court confirmed that documents pointed to deliberate targeting of Roma communities.
Ms Nikolova, although not Roma, is a local shopkeeper from the mostly Roma district of Gizdova, in the Bulgarian town of Dupnitsa. She brought the legal case to the Bulgarian Anti-Discrimination Commission after receiving a large bill and being unable to read the meter. The Sofia Administrative Court sent 10 questions to the Court of Justice under the EU Race Discrimination Directive and this judgment answers those questions, returning the case to the Sofia Administrative Court for resolution.
Ms Nikolova is being represented before the Sofia Administrative Court by lawyer Daniela Mihailova from SRT grantee Equal Opportunities Initiative in Bulgaria. Ms Mihailova said, “The judgment is an important step in the fight of Roma people for fair and equal treatment. Roma in Bulgaria face organized discrimination by companies and officials. This ruling sends a clear message to the Bulgarian courts and Government. The law is a strong tool to end discrimination against Roma people and we will use it.”
Press release from Equal Opportunities website: http://www.equalopportunities.eu/en/media/132-press-releases-eu-court-finds-bulgarian-electricity-company-discriminated-against-roma.html
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