Brussels Gives Up Plans to Sue Bulgaria over Poor Waste Disposal
The European Commission has surprisingly dropped plans to pursue court action against Bulgaria for failing to properly implement EU waste law, citing progress in preparations for a recycling plant.
Although even now there are about 90,000 garbage bales dumped and rotting near Sofia, the municipality is already working on the first stage of the project - the construction of a new landfill near the village of Yana.
The trial against Bulgaria in the European Court of Justice has been suspended since the country has managed to deal partly with the shortcomings, but it will remain on the EC watch list, the environment ministry specified.
More than two years ago Brussels launched an infringement procedure on the issue and the country faced the risk of being forced to pay hefty fines, worth millions of euros.
The case concerned inadequate waste disposal in the capital Sofia, which should have had a network of waste disposal installations in place by the time of its accession on 1 January 2007. Even now a solution remains some years away.
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 was referred to the European Court of Justice, the highest judiciary authority in the bloc, which the country joined in January, 2007.
Finding a solution to Sofia ongoing waste problems was a politically sensitive issue in the months before the parliamentary elections two years ago, 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 garbage 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.