Nature at Stake in Bulgaria. EU Funds MUST comply with EU Nature Conservation Legislation
Brussels- Almost 1 Million Euro from EU pre-accession funds have been wasted by the Bulgarian government by not fulfilling the EU's environmental legislation requirements in designing and planning a motorway in Bulgaria's Kresna Gorge. WWF, the conservation organization, and its partner NGOs in Bulgaria understand the need for the improvement of transport links but stress
the need for strict compliance with the EU’s environmental legislation,
the thorough investigation of alternatives to the current planning, and
a look at the costing in environmental, social and economic terms for by-passing the valuable nature of Kresna Gorge.
The Kresna Gorge, which is 17 km in length and very narrow, is an area of outstanding biodiversity and landscape value. Plans include it in the EU's NATURA 2000 network due to its outstanding population of rare and threatened animals, such as butterflies, fish, bats, tortoises and snakes. The Gorge is also classified as an Important Bird Area, according to the criteria of Bird Life International. The “Tissata” Reserve, also part of the Kresna Gorge, is a site of global conservation importance representative for the Mediterranean zone.
The planned road is considered a crucial part of a route connecting Dresden to Istanbul in the EU’s Trans-European Network for Transport (TENS-T). Current plans direct the highway through the Kresna Gorge, causing destruction not only of nature, but of houses in the town of Kresna, a loss of agricultural land and the deterioration of air quality, life and safety conditions for local people.
The project will breach the provision of several EU Directives (Birds and Habitat Directives). It will also violate numerous Bulgarian acts – the Environmental Protection Act, the Nature Conservation Act and the Protected Areas Act.
Of the substantial 3,342,450 Euro being spent by the EU Pre-Accession Phare programme, 888,000 Euro (32% of the total) have been spent by the Bulgarian government on investigating alternatives. The results, however, do not fulfil the requirements of the EU’s EIA directive (Environmental Impact Assessment). Overall, this represents a contravention of both the accompanying guidelines for the use of EU pre-accession funds, and requirements which must be met by the Bulgarian government in preparing to join the EU.
WWF urges the Bulgarian government to undertake a new and thorough Environmental Impact Assessment and come up with sustainable alternatives to the route outside the gorge in line with EU environmental requirements.
For further information:
Ellen Townsend WWF EU Accession Policy Officer on +32 2 743 88 00
Vesselina Kavrakova, WWF Projects Officer for Bulgaria on +359 2 964 0545/6