An assessment of the performance of the Bulgarian Presidency of the EU has found that it failed to prioritise and protect nature in the EU and at home but did perform well on energy, circular economy and chemicals.
The assessment is critical of Bulgaria’s failure to push for ‘effective implementation of the Nature Directives’ as well as its controversial decision to approve the construction of a motorway through the protected European nature site Kresna Gorge.
Published today by the European Environmental Bureau (EEB), the assessment is based on the ‘Ten Green Tests’ laid out at the start of the Bulgarian Presidency.
The EEB is the largest network of environmental citizens’ organisations in Europe with more than 140 members in over 30 countries.
The assessment acknowledges Bulgaria’s efforts in the areas of energy, where new renewable and energy efficiency targets were agreed, and chemicals. The assessment also notes a positive outcome in relation to the circular economy, including support for a new EU Plastics Strategy.
Commenting on the assessment, EEB Secretary General Jeremy Wates said:
“The Presidency succeeded in bringing the negotiations on the energy efficiency and renewable energy files to a conclusion, even if the targets that were agreed fall short of what is needed for Europe to play its part in limiting global warming in accordance with the Paris climate agreement. Last week’s Council conclusions on the circular economy and on chemicals also represent a useful contribution towards a more sustainable, resource-efficient, healthy society.”
“On the other hand, the Bulgarian Presidency has been let down by its lack of commitment to nature protection or to ensuring sustainable fisheries. New evidence has emerged showing that the natural environment in Europe is degrading ever further. The Bulgarian Presidency needed to work hard to build support for full and effective implementation of the Nature Directives and it simply failed to do that. We are calling on the Austrian Presidency to scale up efforts in this area.”
Key finding of the assessment are:
Bulgaria made good use of its Presidency to conclude new renewables and energy efficiency targets and a new governance regulation combining climate and energy objectives while progressing the negotiations on emissions reductions in the transport sector.
On chemicals, the assessment welcomes the fact that the conclusions of the Council strongly highlight the importance of establishing non-toxic material cycles.
On air pollution, the Bulgarian Presidency gave prominence to the issue by including it on the agenda of the Informal Meeting of Environment Ministers, but the government’s failure to withdraw its court case against revised EU pollution standards which aim to significantly cut air pollution throughout the EU was regrettable.
On the circular economy, the Council’s support for the EU Plastics Strategy and the recent initiative on Single Use Plastics to reduce marine pollution was positive.
On ecosystem restoration and biodiversity protection, the Bulgarian Presidency did not make sufficient effort to scale up efforts towards full and effective implementation of the Nature Directives despite new evidence highlighting the loss of biodiversity and degradation of ecosystem services across the EU.
On the implementation of the Aarhus Convention, the performance of the Bulgarian Presidency was mixed. The fact that Member States took the almost unprecedented step of adopting a Council Decision requesting the Commission to address the issue of the EU’s non-compliance with the Aarhus Convention was positive. However, the content of the Decision was disappointing, allowing the key measures to be postponed to the next Commission, and the indications are that a more supportive approach from the Presidency could have produced a better result
Every six months at the rotation of the EU Presidency, the EEB publishes an assessment of the outgoing presidency and Ten Green Tests for the incoming presidency, prepared in cooperation with BirdLife Europe and Seas at Risk. The assessment distinguishes between effort and outcome, and also takes account of what is within the power of a Presidency to achieve.