Brussels rap for Sofia on wind farms, bilateral agreement with US
The European Commission (EC) has issued on June 21 reasoned opinions asking Bulgaria to comply with European Union law in the area of nature protection laws and to renegotiate the terms of a bilateral agreement with the US.
The reasoned opinions are the second step of the infringement procedures initiated by the EC against member states. The Commission made public on June 21 its monthly package of infringement decisions, issuing 62 reasoned opinions and referring 11 cases to the European Court of Justice, the final step in the infringement procedure.
In the first case against Bulgaria, the Commission said that it was “concerned Bulgaria has not assessed the possible impact of wind turbines and other projects in protected areas of the Kaliakra region”.
In the past, the EC had opened a case against Bulgaria because the government had not set aside sufficient territories around Cape Kaliakra, on the migration routes of many bird species, as protected areas. “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,” the Commission said in a statement.
“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,” the EC said.
Letters of formal notice on the issue had been sent to Sofia in 2008 and 2011, but Bulgaria remains in breach of EU directives and now has two months to respond.
In the second infringement case, Bulgaria was urged to negotiate an end “to certain duty and tax relief provisions contained in a bilateral agreement with the United States on technical assistance.”
The agreement provides for duty and tax-free import of goods financed by the US and for goods and services purchased on the Bulgarian market with the funds of the technical assistance programme. However, none of the exemptions set out in EU legislation justifies the duty and tax relief applied by Bulgaria under this bilateral agreement, the Commission said.
“Once it joined the EU, Bulgaria should have adjusted the terms of the agreement in question or, that was not possible, should have withdrawn from this agreement.”
In this case too, Bulgaria has two months to respond to the reasoned opinion or rectify the situation, otherwise it risks being taken to the European Court of Justice.
(Photo: Päivi Tiittanen)