European Commission Sues Bulgaria over Poor Waste Disposal

Society » ENVIRONMENT | November 20, 2009, Friday // 14:38| Views: | Comments: 0
Bulgaria: European Commission Sues Bulgaria over Poor Waste Disposal Bulgaria's capital Sofia has been battling garbage problems for years on end. Photo by BGNES

The European Commission will pursue court action against Bulgaria for failing to properly implement EU waste law, the Commission said Friday two years after it launched an infringement procedure on the issue.

The case concerns inadequate waste disposal in the capital Sofia, which should have had an adequate network of waste disposal installations in place by the time of its accession on 1 January 2007 but a solution remains some years away, the Commission said.

This is the first trial launched by the European Commission against the EU newcomer.

Sofia's failure to improve its waste management infrastructure was one of the six issues on which the European Commission launched infringement procedures against Bulgaria at the end of October 2007.

As Bulgaria failed to address the European executive's concerns, the matter has now be referred to the European Court of Justice, the highest judiciary authority in the bloc, which the country joined in January, 2007.

The trial against Bulgaria in the European Court of Justice is expected to last at least two years. It will be suspended provided that the country manages to deal with the shortcomings.

Asked to comment, Prime Minister and former Sofia mayor Boyko Borisov threw the blame on former Socialist head of government Sergey Stanishev, saying he deliberately sabotaged his attempts to deal with the garbage problems in the capital.

“You know that the infringement procedure was launched long time ago, but Stanishev sabotaged everything that had to do it with Sofia garbage,” Borisov commented.

Borisov has also conferred with the President of the EU Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso.

“I personally talked to Jose Manuel Barroso and informed him of the steps the country takes in dealing with this problem. The municipality is transporting baled waste to other towns and the garbage processing plant is already under construction,” he said.

The towns of Plovdiv, Harmanli and Lovech have agreed to transport hundreds of thousands of tons of garbage collected from the capital to their waste depots in a bid to rescue the capital from its garbage woes.

Finding a solution to Sofia ongoing waste problems was a politically sensitive issue in the months before the parliamentary elections in the summer, which mayor of the capital Boyko Borisov won by a large margin.

The previous Socialist-led government officially declared a state of emergency in Sofia at the beginning of April over lack of adequate waste removal, saying that the garbage problems threatened national security and citing health and environmental concerns.

The then opposition party of Sofia mayor GERB, which won the elections by a large margin and formed a government, dismissed this as pre-election muscle pumping.

The gargabe problems came after the people, living close to Sofia operational landfill at Suhodol, started staging rallies, demanding the closing of the dumpsite on the western outskirts of Bulgaria's capital over health and environmental concerns.

The dumpsite was reopened at the beginning of December 2007 after the environment ministry backed the controversial option to prevent a looming garbage crisis in the capital.

Suhodol residents forced Sofia authorities to introduce crisis management in July 2005 after blockading the landfill. The protests left the streets in the capital littered with garbage, posing a serious risk to human health and the environment.

Bulgaria may have to pay a daily fine of EUR 50 000 if it fails to find a legal depot for the baled garbage of the capital, Deputy Environment Minster Evdokiya Maneva warned in September.

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Tags: garbage, EC, European Commission, infringement procedure, trial, waste processing plant, waste depot, garbage crisis, sofia, Sofia Municipality
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