Bulgaria has been critized by the Commission for its environmental management

Bulgaria has received warning letters by the Commission for being in breach of the environmental law, notably regarding its household waste management and its evaluation of incidences on the environment forecasted by the wild birds directive.

Final written warning to Bulgaria over waste management processes

Bulgaria is to receive a final written warning for failing to properly implement the EC waste framework directive[1]. The directive requires Member States to promote waste prevention, recycling and processing for re-use and prohibit the abandonment, dumping or uncontrolled disposal of waste.

In October 2007, the Commission sent Bulgaria a first written warning about insufficient measures to establish an integrated network of household waste management installations in Sofia. Following a thorough assessment of the Bulgarian authorities’ reply, the Commission still considers the situation to be unsatisfactory, and has decided to issue a final written warning. The Commission analysis concludes that, as there is no clear deadline for the contracting of the new integrated system, it remains unclear how the Bulgarian government will sustainably manage all waste generated in the Sofia Municipality.

Insufficient measures to protect flora and fauna

In a second case, the Commission is sending Bulgaria a first written warning for failing to properly apply the directive on wild birds[2].

Earlier this year, the Commission received a complaint that ongoing construction projects in the important bird area (IBA) of Kaliakra - located in the north-east of the country - are leading to the deterioration of a number of bird species habitats and disturbance of bird species protected by the EC law. Information made available to the Commission reveals several projects for the construction of large wind turbine development may have been authorised without taking their environmental impact into account. The Commission is also concerned that other sports, tourism and road infrastructure construction projects may have cumulative impacts on the environment which have not been properly assessed.

Waste Directive

The waste framework directive (2006/12/EC) consolidates and replaces Directive 75/442/EEC. The objective is to promote waste prevention, recycling and processing for re-use and prohibit dumping and uncontrolled disposal. The measures seek to establish an integrated and adequate network of disposal installations (taking account of the best available technologies) in the Member States so as to enable the Community as a whole to become self-sufficient in waste disposal and the Member States to move towards that aim individually. This network should enable waste to be disposed of in one of the nearest appropriate installations, so as to guarantee a high level of protection for the environment and human health.

Special protection areas

Under the wild birds directive, Member States are obliged to designate all of the most suitable sites as Special Protection Areas (SPAs) to conserve wild bird species. The designation of SPAs must be based on objective, verifiable scientific criteria, the so called ornithological criteria. To assess whether Member States have complied with their obligation to classify SPAs, the Commission uses the best available ornithological information. Where the necessary scientific information is lacking, national inventories of Important Bird Areas (IBAs), compiled by the non-governmental organization (NGO) Birdlife International, are used. While not legally binding, the IBA inventory is based on internationally recognized scientific criteria. The Court of Justice has already acknowledged its scientific value, and in cases where no equivalent scientific evidence is available, the IBA inventory is a valid basis of reference in assessing whether Member States have classified a sufficient number and size of territories as SPAs.

Legal Process

Article 226 of the Treaty gives the Commission powers to take legal action against a Member State that is not respecting its obligations.

If the Commission considers that there may be an infringement of EU law that warrants the opening of an infringement procedure, it addresses a “Letter of Formal Notice” (first written warning) to the Member State concerned, requesting it to submit its observations by a specified date, usually two months.

In the light of the reply or absence of a reply from the Member State concerned, the Commission may decide to address a “Reasoned Opinion” (final written warning) to the Member State. This clearly and definitively sets out the reasons why it considers there to have been an infringement of EU law, and calls upon the Member State to comply within a specified period, usually two months.

If the Member State fails to comply with the Reasoned Opinion, the Commission may decide to bring the case before the Court of Justice. Where the Court of Justice finds that the Treaty has been infringed, the offending Member State is required to take the measures necessary to conform.

Article 228 of the Treaty gives the Commission power to act against a Member State that does not comply with a previous judgement of the European Court of Justice. The article also allows the Commission to ask the Court to impose a financial penalty on the Member State concerned.

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