Changes to the Biodiversity Act raise concerns about loss of Recovery Plan funds

MPs are cooking up changes affecting Natura 2000 areas, which instead of raising eyebrows, could poke eyes, say environmental groups

Climate / Bulgaria , Ecology
3E news
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A coalition of nature protection associations and civic groups "For nature to remain in Bulgaria" calls on the deputies to reject the caretaker government's proposals for changes to the Biodiversity Act (BA), which make the management of protected areas meaningless.

Although we have been talking about the presence of Natura 2000 protected areas in our country for more than a decade, the transposition of the two European regulations ("On birds" and "On habitats") into our national legislation has not yet been fully implemented. And this is the basis of one of the open Criminal Procedures of the EC against Bulgaria.

Now, with the Recovery and Sustainability Plan (RSP), changes to the Biodiversity Act become even more urgent because they are a condition for receiving the next tranche of funds under the plan.

Two bills address this problem. One bill was introduced in April by the caretaker government, and the other by Green Movement MPs in June. The new leadership of the Ministry of the Environment in its statement announced support for the version of the official cabinet.

The coalition of non-governmental organizations and civil groups "For nature to remain in Bulgaria" stands categorically against this proposal, because it again proposes the idea of the eco-ministry for territorial plans for the management of protected areas, prepared at the level of the Regional Inspectorate for the Environment and Water, for entire areas and parts of them.

These territorial plans were the subject of discussion in the parliament three years ago. Then environmental protection organizations and representatives of the academic community spoke out against them, and they became an occasion for street protests.

The same proposal was assessed by the EC in a letter to the National Assembly at the end of 2020 as follows: "The first element of serious concern that should be noted is that according to paragraph 29 of the proposed draft law, the area-specific environmental protection objectives and measures, as required by the EU legal standard, will be developed only four years after the entry into force of the amendments to the law (through the territorial management plans).

In the best possible scenario, this means that the management plans will be adopted at the end of 2024, which is 10 years later than the deadline provided for in Directive 92/43/EEC1 (the Habitats Directive), namely within six years of the designation of the Sites of Community Importance (SCI). This term expired in December 2014 for most TZO in Bulgaria. This is a direct infringement of the directive and is covered by an ongoing infringement procedure which has already reached the end of the administrative phase, i.e., a possible next step will be referral to the Court of Justice of the EU. It should also be noted that the lack of site-specific conservation objectives prevents proper impact assessment of projects affecting Natura 2000 protected areas, including EU co-financed major projects, resulting in delays in their approval and implementation."

Such type of plans nullifies the idea of conservation and preventive measures at the area level, do not solve the problem of criminal procedure, will create a huge noise in the system with many means of making plans, lack of efficiency and zero result. And the possibility that these plans are drawn up for parts of the zones contradicts the habitats directive, which explicitly requires conservation and prevention measures to be at zone level.

What can be changed in the Biodiversity Act now that should be sufficient grounds for receiving the next tranche of Recovery Plan funds is:

To announce the conservation measures according to Art. 6.1. of the Habitats Directive are mandatory - this is not transposed into our law;

Designate management bodies for protected areas - insistence of the EC (although optional according to the directive);

To develop and legally regulate the specific nature protection goals and priorities.



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