The EC refers Bulgaria to the Court of Justice of the EU for failure to announce the full list of protected areas for Natura 2000 habitats

12 Nov, 2021 | 13:16

Today, the European Commission (EC) adopted a decision to refer Bulgaria to the Court of Justice of the EU for its failure to fulfill its obligations under Council Directive 92/43/EEC of 21 May 1992 on the conservation of natural habitats and wild fauna and flora.

The infringement procedure against Bulgaria for non-fulfillment of obligations under art. 4, para. 4 and art. 6 of the Habitats Directive were initiated on January 25, 2019, and on July 3, 2020 a reasoned opinion was issued.

The process of declaring Natura 2000 sites and defining sufficiently detailed specific objectives and conservation measures for them is significantly delayed in all EU countries, including Bulgaria. For these reasons, at the time of receiving the reasoned opinion, the EC had initiated infringement procedures against 12 Member States and warned the other 15 countries.

The EC considers that although in 2007 Bulgaria designated protected areas for the protection of natural habitats and wild flora and fauna, it has not met the deadline - the end of 2014, for the issuance of final acts (orders) to declare all 229 protected areas. The EC also considers that no site-specific detailed conservation objectives have been set for protected areas for habitats.

In the period 2014-2019 there has been no progress in issuing orders for the designation of protected areas for habitats. At present, orders for declaring 186 protected areas for habitats have been published in the State Gazette. They are listed in the public register, available on the website of the MOEW, section “Nature” at: v-tyah-according-directive-92-43-eio-for-observations-of-natural-habitats-and-on-divata-flora-and-fauna/. For the remaining 43 protected areas, a decision by the Council of Ministers was adopted in the summer of this year to change their boundaries, which the EC is expected to approve, according to the procedure.

The Ministry is currently in the process of adopting pilot specific targets for two protected areas, the content of which has been consulted by international experts provided by EC services. The development of specific and detailed environmental protection objectives for a total of 64 protected areas has been commissioned, 43 of which with deadline at the end of November 2021. Actions have been taken to commission the drafting of objectives for other 22 areas. The development of the specific and detailed conservation objectives for all other protected areas is planned to be done within the framework of a project proposal included in the draft of the Resilience and Recovery Plan.

According to the Commission, Bulgaria has not correctly introduced into national law art. 6 (1) of the Habitats Directive.

In order to overcome the weaknesses identified by the EC, draft legislation amending the Biodiversity Act was prepared at the start of the infringement procedure in January 2019, introducing a new approach to the management of protected areas of the Natura 2000 ecological network. The legislation was submitted for consideration to the 44th National Assembly and adopted at first reading. The caretaker government resubmitted the bill to the 45th National Assembly, but it was not put to consideration. A decision by the Council of Ministers was adopted to submit the same draft legislation to the future 46th National Assembly.