European Commission refers Bulgaria to ECJ over biodiversity, renewable energy

The European Commission said on January 26 that it has decided to refer Bulgaria to the EU Court of Justice (ECJ) in two ongoing infringement proceedings as part of its latest infringements package.

In the first case, Bulgaria was one of six countries that failed to implement provisions of the EU regulation on the prevention and management of the introduction and spread of invasive alien species.

Furthermore, Bulgaria was yet to establish a surveillance system of invasive alien species of EU concern, or included it in its existing system, although the deadline for this was January 2018, the Commission said in a statement.

Despite receiving a letter of formal notice in June 2021 and a reasoned opinion in February 2022, Bulgaria has not fully addressed the Commission’s grievances, prompting the ECJ referral, the last stage in the EU infringement process.

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 second ECJ referral, the Commission said that Bulgaria failed to transpose the EU rules on the promotion of the use of energy from renewable sources, specifically the legal framework for the development of renewable energy in electricity, heating and cooling, and transport in the EU.

The regulation in question sets an EU-level binding target for 2030 of at least 32 per cent renewable energy and includes measures to ensure that support for renewable energy is cost-effective, and to simplify administrative procedures for renewable energy projects, the Commission said.

It also facilitates the participation of citizens in the energy transition, and sets specific targets to increase the share of renewables in the heating and cooling and transport sectors by 2030. The transposition deadline was June 2021.

In this referral, the EC said that it asked the court to impose financial sanctions in accordance with Article 260(3) of the treaty on the functioning of the EU.

In its January package, the European Commission said that it opened three new infringement cases against Bulgaria by sending letters of formal notice.

In one case, targeting Bulgaria specifically, the EC asked the country to bring its fuel compensation scheme, introduced in the wake of fuel price hikes as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in line with single market rules.

The scheme only applies to owners of vehicles registered in Bulgaria, which breaches EU rules on the free movement of goods, free movement of citizens and workers, as well as the principle of non-discrimination for EU citizens, the Commission said.

Bulgaria now two months to address the concerns raised by the EC or the Commission may decide to escalate the proceedings with a reasoned opinion, the second stage in the infringement process.

In the two other new cases opened by the EC, Bulgaria was among several countries asked to correctly implement the EU regulation on addressing the dissemination of terrorist content online and reduce certain air pollutants in line with commitments made under the EU’s national emissions ceiling directive.

The Commission also said that it sent a reasoned opinion to Bulgaria for failing to bring its national laws in line with the Enforcement Directive on Posting of Workers. The EC said that failure to address its concerns in the next two months may result in a referral to the ECJ.

(European Commission headquarters Berlaymont building. Photo: JLogan)

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