Romanian flower sellers protest new rules they say will stop them plying their trade
Clutching small bunches of bright chrysanthemums, about 300 flower sellers marched through Bucharest on Monday to protest new regulations that will stop them selling flowers from outdoor stands.
Most of the sellers were Roma, or Gypsies, whose families have been street florists for generations, and who fear unemployment.
Since Romania joined the European Union on Jan. 1, there have been moves to regulate street trade. Newspapers are no longer sold from stalls on the street, but from special kiosks and the same rules are randomly being applied to florists.
Waving blue, green, mauve and yellow chrysanthemums outside the city hall, florists yelled: "We want to sell a flower, not discrimination!" A group of Roma from the Association of Florists went into the city hall to register a formal complaint calling on authorities to reverse a decision to close stalls down.
Florists called on President Traian Basescu to come to their aid. Basescu was formerly Bucharest mayor and had allowed them to sell their flowers in the streets.
A Bucharest district mayor, Liviu Negoita, said he wants to limit flower selling to six months a year, and says that flower sellers will be obliged to sell their wares from special kiosks, available in three models. Florists say their association purchased special kiosks, but authorities have not been to inspect them, as required.
There are an estimated 700 florists in Bucharest, a city of 2 million. Many of them are Roma, selling flowers from street stalls as they have done for decades.
Several florists who were interviewed on Monday said they had begun their trade when they were children following the trade of parents and grandparents.
";This is a nightmare," said Mariana Ionita, 36 who has been selling flowers since she was eight. "I have three children and my father is ill. There are 10 people in my family, and from today we are illegal." She said her stall was shut down by authorities early Monday, in sector three, one of the city's six districts.
"They won't let us work," said Maria Costache, 19. "We don't know how to do anything else and we don't want to beg."
Local authorities said they had removed outdoor flower stalls and unauthorized kiosks because flower selling had become "a source of discomfort (for residents)" In a statement, authorities from sector three said they had offered alternative places for the floral trade.
However, many of the protesters were not convinced.
"We are born with flowers, and we die with flowers. Our trade makes the city beautiful," said Radu Paul, an adviser in the Association of Florists.
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