The European Commission is taking Bulgaria to Court over its failure to protect unique habitats and important species, reads a DG ENVI press release. The case concerns the Kaliakra region, a migratory route and resting place for highly endangered species, where large numbers of wind turbines and other developments have been authorised without adequate assessments of their environmental effects. Although Bulgaria is committed to increasing the protection of rare species and habitats in the region, the reverse appears to be happening. On the recommendation of Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik, the Commission is therefore taking Bulgaria to the EU Court of Justice.
Under the EU Birds and Habitats Directives, any project that may have a significant negative effect on sites that are part of the Natura 2000 network of protected areas should undergo a prior assessment before it is approved. In parallel, the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive aims to ensure that any project likely to have a significant effect on the environment is adequately assessed before being approved.
Bulgaria has authorised a high number of economic activities in the area without appropriate environmental impact assessment. 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. Up to 100 % of the global population of the world’s most endangered goose species – the red breasted goose – spends the winter in a small number of sites in and around Kaliakra. No account is being taken of the cumulative effect of the authorised projects, which is also a requirement under the Birds, Habitats and Environmental Impact Assessment Directives.
A reasoned opinion on this matter was sent in June 2012. While Bulgaria has taken significant legislative and administrative steps over the last year to restrict the damage and prevent further developments that could affect the area, rare and unique priority habitats and species have been affected by a large number of wind turbines and other developments, either without environmental impact assessments, or with inadequate assessments. Bulgaria has therefore failed to comply with a key requirement of the EU Habitats Directive, which obliges Member States to take appropriate measures to avoid the deterioration of habitats and disturbance of species for which the Nature 2000 sites have been designated, and compensate for any damage that occurs.