ECJ delivers victory for birds and nature in Bulgaria’s Rila Mountains


© Rossen Vasilev

Today the European Court found Bulgaria at fault for not fully designating the Rila Mountains Important Bird Area (IBA) as a Special Protection Area under the Habitats Directive. This judgement is the final chapter in a sad story which originally involved six internationally important areas for birds which had not been fully protected by the Bulgarian Government.

The Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds (BirdLife Bulgaria) submitted a complaint to the European Commission about these sites in 2008. After sustained pressure, the Bulgarian government eventually agreed to fully designate four of the sites. This left the Kaliakra IBA which was fully designated following another court judgement in 2016, and the Rila Mountains IBA which was the subject of today’s ruling.

In its judgement the court rejected the Bulgarian government’s case that it had leeway not to designate areas important for rare forest species such as the three-toed woodpecker. BirdLife hopes this judgement will now lead to the immediate protection of the undesignated areas.

Irina Mateeva, European Policy Officer, BSPB:This is the end of a long battle to get Bulgaria’s important bird areas fully protected. However, there is still a massive ongoing problem with damage to internationally important sites for birds in Bulgaria due to poor management and lack of protection from damaging activities. Following the two judgements against them in two years we now hope that the Bulgarian government will start taking its obligations to protect these sites seriously.”