Thousands of people in Bulgaria protested on Wednesday against a planned disability welfare reform which the government says will combat widespread abuses of the system.
Disability welfare payments in Bulgaria, the poorest country in the European Union, costs the government 1.7 billion levs ($1.08 billion) each year. But official statistics show that around 900,000 payments are made each year to 500,000 recipients, and this discrepancy has given rise to accusations of fraud.
The reform bill has sparked fierce opposition, with critics arguing it would result in benefit cuts and leave recipients of disability payments, many of whom are already living under the poverty line.
In an attempt to avert Wednesday’s protest, the cabinet withdrew particularly contested details of the bill, including the introduction of stricter criteria in disability assessments, but the rally in the capital Sofia went ahead.