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Court rules in favour of protecting the iconic Pirin National Park in Bulgaria

05 May 2020
by WWF -- last modified 05 May 2020

Bulgaria’s Supreme Administrative Court has suspended the execution of Pirin National Park's new management plan, which would have allowed construction in 66% and logging in 48% of the national park and World Heritage Site. In a time of crisis, this is a victory for nature and the rule of law in Bulgaria.


WWF-Bulgaria has been fighting to prohibit new logging and construction in Pirin National Park since November 2016, activities that would not only endanger many species that depend on the area's old-growth forests, but also be in breach of the EU Nature Directives. After nothing else proved effective, in March 2017 WWF-Bulgaria and the Association of Parks in Bulgaria (APB) filed a lawsuit against the Ministry of Environment and Water's decision not to conduct a Strategic Environmental Assessment of the expansion plan.


On 29 April 2020, the Bulgarian Supreme Administrative Court definitively ruled that the new management plan's omission of environmental and Natura 2000 impact assessments is illegal. The court saga, running for three years now, has finally been won by the NGOs and the citizens that have been supporting them in Bulgaria and around the globe.


Pirin has exceptionally beautiful mountain scenery and glacial lakes, and is an example of a healthy, functioning Balkan uplands ecosystem that is home to EU wide protected species such as brown bears, grey wolves, chamois and the Eurasian three-toed woodpecker, the rarest woodpecker in Europe. The natural coniferous forests shelter a 1,300 year-old endemic Bosnian pine tree (Baykusheva mura) – believed to be the oldest one on the Balkan peninsula.


"The final decision of the Supreme Administrative Court marks a milestone for nature conservation and the rule of law in Bulgaria  - not only because of the outcome, but also by setting new standards and a new court practice in the field, which will positively impact protected areas and Natura 2000 sites in the country in the future," says Vesselina Kavrakova, CEO of WWF-Bulgaria.


"The Bulgarian Court ruling sends a far-reaching message across Europe - the EU Nature Directives must be respected!' said Sabien Leemans, Senior Policy Officer for Biodiversity at WWF European Policy Office. 'With the EU 2030 Biodiversity Strategy due in the coming weeks, this ruling serves as a timely reminder that implementation and enforcement of the EU Nature Directives is one of the key tools in the fight to reverse biodiversity loss by 2030."

The European Policy Office helps shape EU policies that impact on the European and global environment.