Bulgarian Black Sea Coast
What is the problem?
Bulgaria became a member of the European Union in January 2007, and as such has to respect the same environmental legislation as other Member States, including obligations under the Birds Directive to designate areas of European significance for birds as Special Protection Areas (SPAs) and protect these.
Not only is Bulgaria failing to fully designate sites, but it also permits uncontrolled development on many of these sites. One of the most important of them is Kaliakra. Located on the Black Sea coast, it is on the route of the ‘Via Pontica’, one of the two most important migratory flyways in Europe. Kaliakra contains one of the last remnants of the unique steppe habitats in the EU and some of the largest coastal cliffs. Thousands of birds travelling from Europe to Africa and the Middle East – including the white stork and pallid harrier – stop at Kaliakra to roost or forage. The globally threatened Red-breasted Goose Branta ruficollis overwinters at the site.
However, the future of Kaliakra is uncertain. The site is under direct threat from hundreds of developments including several proposals for tourist developments – hotels, summer villages and golf courses - and from proposals for 28 wind farms with a total of 200 turbines – posing a massive threat to the thousands birds that fly through the area every year. Many of the proposals are being progressed rapidly, and there is the very real possibility that the site’s most important features will be lost before it can be designated. Some areas of key habitat found in Kaliakra have already been destroyed. If it is not fully designated, and the proposed developments not stopped, soon the area will be unable to sustain the thousands of birds that depend on it.
What is BirdLife doing?
BSPB (BirdLife Bulgaria), supported by the RSPB (BirdLife UK) and the BirdLife Secretariat is working hard to save the Kaliakra Natura 2000 site.
Since 2004 BSPB has been working to bring the issue of wind farms on the Black Sea coast to the attention of the Bern Convention. As a result, in 2007 the Bern Convention adopted a strong recommendation that Bulgaria reconsider wind farm development in these sensitive locations, improve the quality of environmental assessments carried out to inform planning decisions on particular projects and introduce a strategic approach to wind farm planning informed by Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA).
In July 2007, BSPB as part of the Bulgarian NGO coalition “For Nature” submitted a petition concerning the lack of protection of Bulgarian Natura 2000 sites, including Kaliakra to the European Parliament . Thousands of people signed the petition. In meetings of the Petitions Committee in the European Parliament, many Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) have supported the petition, putting pressure on the European Commission to take action against Bulgaria.
In September 2007, BSPB submitted a complaint to the European Commission about both Bulgaria’s failure to designate SPAs, and the inadequate protection of those sites that should be designated. In February 2008 BSPB submitted a second complaint concerning the non-designation and damage to the Kaliakra site specifically, which was supported by 12 other Bulgarian nature conservation organisations. In May 2008, August and October 2009 BSPB provided updates with information about further developments and damage at Kaliakra and other Natura 2000 sites. As a result, the European Commission has now opened another infringement action against Bulgaria on its systematic failure to protect Natura 2000 sites from damaging development.
As well as bringing the case to the attention of the Commission, BirdLife has worked to raise the profile of the case with MEPs – in the summer of 2008 and Autumn of 2009 over 100 supporters of RSPB (BirdLife UK), wrote to their MEPs about Kaliakra and site protection in Bulgaria. BSPB has also submitted comments on applications of developers of wind farms at Kaliakra for carbon credits. While BirdLife strongly supports development of renewable energy projects, including wind, these are not without their own impacts and must be planned in accordance with European legislation – the choice of location is key. (Read also: BirdLife's position on wind energy)
BSPB is also carrying out national actions in the case – meeting officials and developers, participating in planning processes, taking national court cases and raising awareness in national media. BSPB are also now involved in a government Strategic Environmental Assessment of wind energy developments in Bulgaria, which hopefully will lead to better planning of these types of development so that they do not impact on Natura 2000 sites.
The situation at Kaliakra is bleak. Since 1 January 2007 over 360 projects have been proposed in the area which we believe should be designated as an SPA. If these proceed they will cause the direct loss of one-fifth of the bird habitat in the SPA, including almost all of the areas where Red-breasted Geese feed during the winter.
On 27 November 2008 the European Commission opened an infringement procedure against Bulgaria in respect of Kaliakra (Letter of Formal Notice). In our view strong action from the European Commission is essential to ensure Bulgaria complies with the law and designates and protects sites such as Kaliakra properly. (Read the related news story here)
In October 2009, the Commission opened a 'horizontal' infringement against Bulgaria due to a systematic failure to protect its Natura 2000 sites. This followed further information submitted by BSPB cataloguing the hundreds of damaging developments being consented on and around Natura 2000 sites across Bulgaria. In December, Petitions Committee members of the European Parliament urged the Commission to take further action and progress its infringements against Bulgaria as a matter of urgency.
In 2010 BSPB and BirdLife have continued to lobby the European Commission hard to progress the cases against Bulgaria. In March 2010 a further Letter of Fomal Notice was sent to Bulgaria on the systematic lack of protection of over a dozen Special Protection Areas. However, no further action has since been taken to progress the infringement actions towards the European Court of Justice, through a second written warning.
In May 2011 the Bulgarian government confirmed extensions to four SPAs that were the subject of the designation infringement action at the European Commission. This is a significant success, mainly due to sustained pressure from BSPB/BirdLife at both the European and national levels, using reasoned scientific arguments why the sites needed to be designated. This decision will result in formal protection for key breeding sites of endangered species such as the Egyptian vulture and saker falcon, along with important forest species. However, this decision still leaves a third of the Kaliakra IBA unprotected and a decision on the Rila mountain IBA was postponed. BSPB/BirdLife will continue to campaign to get these final sites protected.
What can you do?
- Ask your Members of the European Parliament whether they will support Natura 2000 and save Bulgarian nature
Next Page » Casework - Romanian Danube Delta
- Bulgaria Brief Update on Natura 2000 site designation issues and continuing degradation of important sites (October 2009) (PDF, 133 KB)
- BSPB website
- BSPB statement on wind farms on the Via Pontica migration route on the Black Sea Coast
- BSPB letter raising concerns about application for carbon credits for a wind farm at Kaliakra
- Bern Recommendation on the windfarms planned near Balchik and Kaliakra (Bulgaria)
- Final Statement of the BSPB on implementation of Saint Nikola Kavarna Windfarm August 2008 (PDF 337KB)
- BSPB/BirdLife Position statement on Bulgarian SPB designation and protection June 2008 (PDF 141KB)
- Sixteen cases of Natura 2000 vandalism in Bulgaria (PDF 181KB)