This petition is addressed to the Bulgarian Government and to the municipal authorities of Plovdiv, requesting to prevent prospective construction on the site of the Roman forum of ancient Philippopolis, modern Plovdiv, Bulgaria. The city of Plovdiv boasts a rich historical, architectural and artistic heritage which attracts the interest of scholars and tourists from all over the world. An important part of its treasures is the remains of ancient Philippopolis, one of the greatest cities of Hellenistic and Roman Thrace, which have been being uncovered by excavations over the last decades. Intensive construction and development from the 1950s on have provided opportunities to investigate the remains of the ancient city, but, at the same time, led to the destruction of a great part of the material. Nevertheless, a number of excavated sites have been preserved as landmarks within the urban fabric, bearing witness to the earliest phases of the city’s long history and integrating them in contemporary life. Walking through the picturesque city, visitors can see the Roman theatre, a part of the stadium, the district of the east gate, the remains of the great Christian basilica and parts of the Roman forum. The Roman forum of Plovdiv is one of the two complexes of its kind thus far excavated in Roman Thrace, and indeed one of the largest ones known in the Balkans. Its importance for the study of ancient Philippopolis and of Roman public architecture in the area is immense, and the preservation of its remains is undoubtedly necessary. After excavation in the 1970s, only the remains the southeast part of the ancient complex were kept visible to visitors, while most of the ancient piazza and adjacent buildings were taken over by the building of the postal hall. Bulgaria ratified the Convention for the Protection of the Architectural Heritage of Europe (Council of Europe, Granada 03.X.1985) and the European Convention on the Protection of Archaeological Heritage (Council of Europe, London 06.V.1969) in 1991 and 1993 respectively, thus undertaking to protect the archaeological monuments of the country from disfigurement, demolition and dilapidation, and to provide for their restoration and maintenance. In 1995 the Roman forum of Plovdiv was declared by law a national archaeological monument, and in 1998 a Protocol issued by the Ministry of Culture forbade any building activity to be undertaken on the site. In 2004, in a blatantly illegal act, the City of Plovdiv sold the archaeological site to private companies as a building plot for the construction of a mall, a project which, if realised, will cause irreversible damages to the monument or the complete destruction of the remains. Despite their statutory duty to protect the archaeological site, the municipal authorities claim that it is their own property which they may dispose of as they wish. We, the signatories of this petition, express our disappointment about the scandalous decision of the local authorities, and urge the Bulgarian Government and the Municipality of Plovdiv: -to cancel the sale of the archaeological site. -to prevent any construction activity on the site, which should not conform to the principles of the aforementioned European Conventions and to Bulgarian legislation on cultural monuments. -to guarantee that the current status of the plot as a protected archaeological site will remain unaffected, and will be respected in the future by public authorities and private parties alike. -to undertake every necessary action for the restoration, maintenance and proper exhibition of the remains. We also express our solidarity with the Union of Architects of Plovdiv and with every organisation or private individual who lawfully promote the protection of the monument.
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