European Commission refers Bulgaria to ECJ over Natura 2000 network

The European Commission said on November 12 that it has decided to refer Bulgaria to the EU Court of Justice (ECJ) for “failing to protect and manage its Natura 2000 network sites” and also opened two new infringement cases as part of its October package.

In a statement, the Commission said that Bulgaria was in breach of its obligations under the Habitats Directive (Directive 92/43/EEC), which requires member states to designate any sites of community importance as special areas of conservation within a period of six years.

Bulgaria has not yet done so with regard to 194 out of 229 such sites, also failing to “set site-specific conservation objectives and measures for these sites,” which was also in breach of the Habitats Directive.

The directive requires the establishment of Natura 2000, an EU-wide network of protected natural areas, made of special areas of conservation and special protection areas for birds.

“The lack of conservation objectives corresponding to the legal standard of the Habitats Directive leads to flaws in the appropriate assessments of projects affecting the Natura 2000 network, which covers nearly 35 per cent of the territory of the country,” the Commission said in its statement.

The EC said that it “considers that efforts by the Bulgarian authorities have to date been unsatisfactory and insufficient and is therefore referring Bulgaria to the Court of Justice.”

If the ECJ rules that Bulgaria is in breach of EU law, the country would be required to comply with the judgment or risk being imposed financial penalties that scale up depending on the length of the breach.

In the two new infringement cases against Bulgaria, the Commission issued letters of formal notice asking the country to fix the incorrect transposition of EU rules on opening its rail transportation market and to correctly apply the EU Landfill Directive.

(European Commission headquarters Berlaymont building. Photo: JLogan)

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