The Court of the European Union rejected as inadmissible the claim by the European Commission against Bulgaria for the payment of financial sanctions for the quality of atmospheric air.
The case was initiated at the end of March 2021 when the European Commission requested that financial fines be imposed on Bulgaria in the amount of 11 million lev (5.6 million euros) as a one-off payment and 20 million lev (10.2 million euros) as a periodic fine for each year of non-compliance. In practice, the funds would become requestable from the day of the court decision, but the EU Court rejected the claim against Bulgaria and fines will not be imposed.
In September 2022, representatives of the Ministry of the Environment and Water became part of the team defending Bulgaria: the latest data on air quality for 2021 was provided, which shows that the measured levels of PM10 are below the legal average annual norm at all monitoring points in the affected zones and agglomerations.
The Court of the EU was informed that there has been significant progress also with regard to the number of municipalities in which the average 24-hour norm has also been achieved, for example, of all 26 municipalities covered by the case, 19 are in full compliance with the average 24-hour norm and in the rest 7, the highest progress on this indicator to date was recorded.
Bulgaria emphasised that these results are produced through the implementation of complex measures, which, while reducing pollution, should not hinder the economic and social sustainability of the population.
In November 2022, the Advocate General’s Opinion on the case was published. Taking into account the results achieved so far, in his motivated opinion he states that there is no reason for the determination of a periodic property fine for Bulgaria. The conclusion stated that the imposition by the Court on Bulgaria of a one-off fine does not seem proportionate, given these resources can be invested in the improvement of air quality.
The Ministry of Environment and Water stated decisively that, along with increased control and preventive actions, the policies to ensure a clean environment will continue in order to preserve nature and protect the health of the population.