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Bulgaria approves final NATURA 2000 protected areas

Date: 01.12.2007

Bulgaria's cabinet approved on Thursday the final 47 protected areas that will become part of the NATURA 2000 programme, taking their total number to 342.

The cabinet will send its final list to the European Commission for final approval in the near future, environment minister Dzhevdet Chakarov said.

"Although it is possible that the EC will make corrections to the list, but we don't expect any," he said.

The areas cover 33,8% of the country's territory, which makes Bulgaria one of the leading countries in the EU in this respect, Chakarov added.

Two proposed areas were cut down in size and the contested buffer area in the Rila Mountains was also dropped from the list, according to the minister.

That would allow building permits to be issued in the buffer area using regular proceedings, which has enraged environmental activists, who once again protested against the ministry's measures, which they see as inadequate.

Landowners will receive compensations for their plots if they are within the protected areas, with the price set at between EUR 150 and 200 per hectare, government officials said earlier.

NATURA 2000 is a set of areas in the EU member states where plant and animal species and their habitats must be protected, enforcing the bloc's Birds Directive of 1979 and the Habitats Directive of 1992.

The member states are responsible for managing these areas and must ensure conservation of the species and habitats designated by community law.

While human activities, such as farming, are still authorised within these areas, they must be compatible with the aim of conservation.

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