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Brussels Set to Sue Bulgaria Soon over Poor Waste Disposal

Date: 13.04.2010

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

This became clear following a meeting between Bulgaria's Environment Minister Nona Karadzhova and EU Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik in Brussels.

Speaking to reporters Minister Karadzhova said she has presented the position of the Bulgarian authorities, but the commissioner was adamant that the decision for suing Bulgaria has already been taken and the case will enter the court room in Luxembourg.

According to Minister Karadzhova Bulgarian authorities will try to convince the court that they have done their best to come up with a solution to the problem. She expressed the hope that the court will rule in favor of Bulgaria. Otherwise the country will be forced to pay hefty fines, worth millions of euros.

The case has not yet been filed, but this is expected to happen a month after a decision to this effect is taken.

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

The case concerns 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. 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 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.

Finding a solution to Sofia ongoing waste problems was a politically sensitive issue in the months before the parliamentary elections last 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.

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