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Environment: Commission urges Bulgaria to comply with EU nature protection laws

Commission Européenne - IP/12/654   21/06/2012

Autres langues disponibles: FR DE BG

European Commission

Press release

Brussels, 21 June 2012

Environment: Commission urges Bulgaria to comply with EU nature protection laws

The European Commission is concerned Bulgaria has not assessed the possible impact of wind turbines and other projects in protected areas of the Kaliakra region. On the recommendation of Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik, the Commission is sending a reasoned opinion to ask Bulgaria to comply with applicable EU laws. If Bulgaria fails to do so within two months, the Commission may refer the case to the EU Court of Justice. Should the case reach the Court, the Commission may ask for interim measures as well as the removal of offending projects.

Under the EU Birds and Habitats Directives, any project that may have a significant negative effect on sites that are part of the Natura 2000 network of protected areas should undergo a prior assessment before work begins. In parallel, the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive aims to ensure that any project likely to have a significant effect on the environment is adequately assessed before being approved.

The Commission had previously opened a case against Bulgaria as insufficient territories in Kaliakra – an important area for birds – were designated as Special Protection Areas (SPA) under the Birds Directive. The present (related but separate) concern is that Bulgaria has authorised a high number of economic activities in the Kaliakra area without appropriate environmental impact assessment, and is continuing to do so. Thousands of wind turbines and some 500 other projects have been authorised without adequate assessments of their effect on Kaliakra's unique habitats and species, and on the thousands of birds and bats that fly over the site each year on their way to and from Africa. No account is being taken of the cumulative effect of the projects, which is also a requirement under the Birds, Habitats and Environmental Impact Assessment Directives.

In December 2008 and September 2011 the Commission sent Bulgaria letters of formal notice concerning the poor application of the relevant EU Directives. While Bulgaria has been in regular contact with the Commission and has supplied information to allow further analysis, it remains in breach of the three Directives. A reasoned opinion has therefore been sent. Bulgaria has two months to respond.

Background

The Birds Directive, the EU’s oldest piece of nature legislation, creates a comprehensive scheme of protection for all wild bird species naturally occurring in the Union. The 1992 Habitats Directive forms a cornerstone of Europe's nature conservation policy, protecting over 1000 animals and plant species and over 200 "habitat types" such as special types of forests, meadows, and wetlands, which are of European importance. The areas protected by the Directives make up Natura 2000, the EU-wide network of protected natural areas.

Each EU Member State has designated Natura 2000 sites with the aim of assuring the long-term survival of Europe's most valuable and threatened species and habitats The Natura 2000 network is comprised of Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) designated by Member States under the Habitats Directive, and Special Protection Areas (SPAs) under the Birds Directive. Natura 2000 is not a system of strict nature reserves where all human activities are excluded: most of the land is privately owned and the emphasis is on ensuring that management is ecologically and economically sustainable.

The aim of the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive is to ensure that projects which are likely to have a significant effect on the environment are adequately assessed before they are approved. Hence, before any decision is taken to allow such a project to proceed, possible impacts on the environment are identified and assessed. Developers can then adjust projects to minimise negative impacts before they actually occur, or the competent authorities can incorporate mitigation measures into the project approval.

Further information

For current statistics on infringements in general:

http://ec.europa.eu/community_law/infringements/infringements_en.htm

See also:

MEMO/12/464

Contacts :

Joe Hennon (+32 2 295 35 93)

Monica Westeren (+32 2 299 18 30)


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