Cause and Effect in European Politics and Law

For illegal parking - a runover by an armoured vehicle

Adelina Marini, August 4, 2011

All must be equal before the law and if they are not ... they will be equaled. This is the message the mayor of Vilnius has sent, the capital of Lithuania, Arturas Zuokas from an old armoured vehicle after he smashed an expensive Mercedes that had parked illegally in a bicycle lane. The footage in YouTube with this military measure instantly circulated around the world and proved to be very well targeted because I myself saw it for the first time via a Bulgarian auto forum. In Facebook the footage spread with an admiring speed and evoked tumultuous welcome.

One of the main reasons for this is that obviously the inequality before the law in the new member states of the European Union has reached its critical point and the nerves of people are strained to extremity since they are inclined not only to enjoy but even to endorse illegally parked cars to be ran over by armoured vehicles.

I have to admit that I myself got extremely excited by the footage. I felt somehow requited for all the occasions when I was powerless before the drivers of luxury and extremely expensive cars, parked with incredible imagination in key places in Sofia, capping the entire traffic and demonstrating full superiority over the law enforcement, who either stand doing nothing or pretend they do not see. I do not know what the experts of the European Commission think, those who write the annual reports for Bulgaria under the Control and Verification Mechanism the purpose of which was to remind our country that we still have not won the fight against corruption and organised crime, but while I was watching the movie 3 times I caught myself thinking that, if necessary, this fight should be fought with armoured vehicles too.

Of course, reason prevailed and my journalistic curiosity came back. Firstly I got suspicious whether this really was the mayor of Vilnius - I just cannot imagine what kind of legal grounds he might have that would allow him to run my car over, even if I had parked illegally. I got impressed when I found out that the web page of the mayor of Vilnius was in English too and there was the information I needed - the name and contacts of the chief of the department for media relations. At 7 pm on Tuesday I sent an e-mail with couple of questions.

Next day before noon I got the answers. Fortunately or not this is all about an advertisement, the main purpose of which is to focus attention, as Irma Juskenaite explained. "I wanted to send a clear message that people with big and expensive cars can’t park wherever they feel like and ignore the rights of pedestrians and bike riders. It shows a lack of respect and won’t be tolerated. Of course, you have to have a sense of humor in my line of work and I thought this would be a way of drawing attention to the fact that the city intends to be proactive in its fight against illegal parking", she quoted the mayor of Vilnius as saying.

Irma writes also that the armoured vehicle was hired from the National Military Museum and the car was provided especially for the filming.

Currently the city authorities of Vilnius fight illegal parking by fining the wrongdoers and sometimes cars are towed. For a first violation fine is imposed of 50 Lt (around $20) and for a second the fine jumps to 200 Lt. According to Irma, the reactions in Lithuania was very good and Lithuanians even started joking that they were already afraid to park illegally.

Obviously, however, the existing methods do not help, especially those who think that the abundance of money for expensive cars releases them before their "poor" fellow citizens from the "humiliation" to obey the same laws. And, by the way, the character depicted in the footage is very appropriate and every Bulgarian citizen can think that this is a Bulgarian mutra (the members of organised crime in Bulgaria are called with the insulting slang mutri, meaning an ugly face of a monster). Well, a problem might be the street in the video because there are no such in Bulgaria, but this is another issue and is, by the way, again mayor's job, in general. And with this video the mayor of Vilnius shows that the only thing needed is political will but the way it is perceived all over the world - really, indeed really to want to solve a problem not just to say you want.

So, dear fellow citizens, we are lucky that only several months before the local elections in Bulgaria we get very fresh ideas from abroad. And let's hope this makes us more exigent to what the candidates for mayors offer us.