Today, the Commission has decided to refer Bulgaria to the Court of Justice of the European Union for not respecting its obligations under the Habitats Directive (Directive 92/43/EEC).
Within six years from the listing of their Sites of Community Importance (SCIs), Member States must designate them as Special Areas of Conservation (SACs). In addition, they have to set site-specific conservation objectives and establish the necessary conservation measures to maintain or restore the protected species and habitats present in the sites, in order to reach favourable conservation status.
The European Green Deal and the European Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 set the objective for the EU to halt biodiversity loss by preserving its natural sites and restoring damaged ecosystems to good ecological status.
Bulgaria has not yet designated 194 out of 229 Sites of Community Importance as Special Areas of Conservation within the required time limit and has generally and persistently failed to set site-specific conservation objectives and measures for these sites. These are key requirements to protect biodiversity across the EU.
The Commission sent to Bulgaria a letter of formal notice in January 2019 and a reasoned opinion on the matter in July 2020. The Commission considers that efforts by the Bulgarian authorities have to date been unsatisfactory and insufficient and is therefore referring Bulgaria to the Court of Justice of the European Union.
The Habitats Directive (Council Directive 92/43/EEC) requires the establishment of Natura 2000, an EU-wide network of protected natural areas, made of Special Areas of Conservation (SACs), and Special Protection Areas for birds (SPAs) under the Birds Directive (Directive 2009/147/EC). Each Member State identifies and proposes sites that are important for the conservation of species and habitats occurring naturally in their territory. The Commission subsequently adopts them as Sites of Community Importance (SCIs). Member States then have up to six years to designate them as Special Areas of Conservation (SACs), and to introduce the necessary management measures to maintain or restore the species and habitats present to a favourable conservation status.
Bulgaria announced a new approach for the management of its Natura 2000 Network, which was presented to the Commission in 2017 but is still not in place. 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% of the territory of the country.
For more information