On December 1, the Standing Committee of the Berne Convention decided to continue monitoring the construction of the Struma Highway through the Kresna Gorge for another year, and the Bulgarian government will have to report on progress three times in 2022, according to environmental groups ".
The European Convention on Biological Diversity and Habitats monitors the case of the construction of the highway in 2014 due to non-compliance with its recommendations by the Bulgarian state. As early as 2002, the Standing Committee to the Convention called in Recommendation 98/2002 for the motorway to be built outside the gorge and the city, and for the current road to be local. This is also the option that the European Commission approves for funding with European funds.
Following the convention's independent expert mission in August 2021, which involved all stakeholders, including locals and rafting clubs, the Bulgarian government accepted the recommendations and agreed to set up consensus working groups to resolve contentious issues in the Kresna Gorge more than 20 years later.
On November 10, 2021, the government and conservation organizations submitted a joint report to the forthcoming committee of the Berne Convention. This is the first time this has happened
The report describes the decision to set up 3 working groups to propose consensus solutions to the government on 3 contentious issues that hinder the construction of the Struma Motorway through the Kresna Gorge: declaring NATURA sites and setting their conservation priorities; and goals; new EIA / GA assessments and a new choice of alternatives and scope of these assessments.
The recommendation of the experts acknowledged the need to preserve the local road in order to solve the issue of road safety, to protect local people and businesses in Kresna. She also touched on the need to consider the construction of the Struma highway together with the issue of modernization of the railway line to Greece.
"The options that meet the requirements for nature protection and road safety are the construction of a long tunnel or the so-called full eastern bypass when the two lanes are taken out of the Kresna gorge to the east (the so-called G20). These are the only possible alternatives that comply with Recommendation 98/2002 of the Berne Convention. Only they do not affect the nature in the Kresna gorge and provide a local road on the highway, without which it is impossible to prevent future serious road accidents, "said Daniel Popov of the Environmental Association" For the Earth ", who is also a spokesman for NGOs in The Convention.
We remind you that in 2019 the European Commission refused to finance with European funds the section proposed by the government through the Kresna gorge. She said then that Bulgaria needed to set conservation priorities and make a new environmental assessment and a new choice of alternatives. This is also required by the opinion on environmental assessment of the operational program "Transport Connectivity - 2021-2027.
On November 12, 2021, the European Commission filed a lawsuit with the European Court of Justice against Bulgaria for the country's inability to protect and manage its Natura 2000 sites. Bulgaria has not yet set targets for 194 of the 229 sites of Community importance for special protection zones within the mandatory deadline, reminds "For the Earth".