Statement by Minister Lichev in relation to the construction and operation of mines in Serbia near the Bulgarian border

24 Aug, 2021 | 13:45

Statement by the Minister of Environment and Water Asen Lichev in relation to the increased public interest on issues pertinent to the construction and operation of mines on the territory of the Republic of Serbia near the border with the Republic of Bulgaria


Since my appointment as Minister, I have been working proactively to intensify the dialogue with the competent Serbian institutions in close cooperation and coordination with the Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.


At the beginning of my term in office, I invited the Minister of Environmental Protection of the Republic of Serbia to hold a meeting to sign an Agreement on Environmental Impact Assessment and to discuss environmental issues that are sensitive to the public. Due to the lack of response from the Serbian side, on August 19th I renewed my invitation for a meeting in Sofia.


On the initiative of the Minister of Foreign Affairs and myself, a meeting was held on July 26th 2021 at the EU Delegation in Belgrade with the participation of EU diplomats and representatives of the Serbian Ministry of Environmental Protection. During the meeting, the Serbian side stated that the documents for the development of a new mine in Karamanitsa for the extraction of non-ferrous metals by the Serbian company Bosilmetal have been prepared to be sent to Bulgaria under the Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context (Espoo Convention). Such documents have not yet been received by the MOEW.


The Bulgarian side has repeatedly expressed its desire to receive information at the earliest possible stage for each project in the fields of mining, energy, and the chemical industry, including those that have initiated an EIA procedure on the territory of the Republic of Serbia in administrative units near the border. In view of the fact that no response has been received from Serbia so far, the MOEW has notified the Committee for the Implementation of the Espoo Convention, which is investigating the Republic of Serbia for violations of the implementation of the Convention.


In addition, European Commissioners Virginijus Sinkevicius, Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, and Oliver Varhelyi, Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement, were informed of the Bulgarian concerns about the fact that Serbia has partially transposed environmental directives and in particular those regarding water. They are also informed about the lack of notifications under Art. 3 of the Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context with regard to the Podvirovi, Popovica, and Grot mines.


The European Commissioners responded that the EC is closely monitoring and assessing Serbia’s annual progress in aligning with EU environmental legislation, including within the meetings of the Subcommittee on the EU-Serbia Stabilization and Association Agreement on transport, energy, the environment, climate change, and regional development during whose meetings the Commission raised the issue of water pollution in transboundary rivers, as well as water monitoring, including in the border regions of Serbia.


I emphasize once again the importance and significance of compliance with environmental standards by the Serbian side towards which the MOEW works actively and consistently.