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Bulgarian nature protection in the spotlight of the European Parliament

The Petitions Committee looks at 17 cases of irregularities with the implementation of the European legislation in Bulgaria

30-10-08 Sofia. Today a mission of MEPs inspecting allegations of violated European legislation in Bulgaria had their concluding session in Sofia. The delegation, headed by the chair of the Committee on Petitions of the European Parliament, Martin Libicki, visited the country in response to a petition for the preservation of Rila Mountain, supported by more than 170,000 Bulgarians.

“Rila National Park is 'attacked' by eight large-scale ski resorts, planned almost symmetrically around the mountain”, says Vera Petkanchin from Citizens for Rila, “If only few of them are developed, the most magnificent Bulgarian mountain would be significantly and irreversibly damaged.”

“We are shocked and saddened by what we saw in Bulgaria, and will certainly bring the issue up in the European Parliament”, shares David Hammerstein, a member of the delegation. “The Bulgarian Ministry of Environment did not answer our questions regarding the legal violations. It looks as if this Ministry does not exist.”

Over the past two years Bulgaria has been ridden by scandals over illegal developments throughout the entire Black Sea coast and in the mountains. Austrian Raiffaisen Centrobank is planning a holiday complex at Kamchia Sands, a former protected area at the Black Sea coast, ‘closed down’ by a court decision to ease construction. British architect Norman Foster together with architect Georgii Stanishev, Bulgarian PM’s brother, is involved in a project at Karadere, one of the few virgin beaches in Bulgaria, and part of a European network of protected areas. Golden Pearl, an illegal holiday complex has been built at the Black Sea coast in Strandzha Nature Park. Large-scale new ski zones in the National Park of Pirin, planned to supposedly accommodate the overly-developed ski resort of Bansko, violate the Bulgarian and European laws.

“The Bulgarian state, however, has neither the will, nor the competence to stop the growing number of developments, booming all over the country's protected and wild areas,” explains Jordanka Dineva of the Bulgarian Biodiversity Foundation. “Our hopes are therefore very much resting with the European Commission and Parliament. It is crucial and pressing that the EC responds with sanctions to the massive environmental devastation let by the Bulgarian government. Infringement procedures need to start immediately!”, adds Dineva. Similar sanctions have so far been imposed on Ireland, Poland and Hungary.

Protecting Bulgarian nature now ranks as democratic cause number one.
The civil initiatives, opposing the illegal construction in protected areas are growing. Thousands of people regularly stage public demonstrations to express their will for a real change. This is what the European parliamentarians witnessed today in Sofia:

date: 03.11.2008,
source: "Let Nature Remain in Bulgaria"

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