Commission refers Bulgaria to Court of Justice over failure to sufficiently protect endangered bird species

In Europe, many species of wild birds are in decline, which disturbs the biological balance and is a serious threat to the natural environment. Directive 2009/147/EC on the conservation of wild birds aims to protect all species of wild birds that occur naturally in the Union. The Directive bans activities that directly threaten birds, such as the deliberate killing or capture, destruction of nests, removal of eggs, trading live or dead birds. It also places great emphasis on the protection of habitats for endangered and migratory species, by establishing the network of Special Protection Areas.

The European Commission is taking Bulgaria to the Court of Justice of the EU over its failure to protect unique habitats and important bird species in the Rila Mountains. The Bulgarian authorities have failed to widen the zone classified as a special protection area in order to provide adequate protection to 17 endangered bird listed in Annex I of the Birds Directive, thus putting at risk the conservation of species such as Tengmalm's [Boreal’s] owl (Aegolius funereus) and the Eurasian pygmy owl (Glaucidium passerinum), as well as the white-backed woodpecker (Dendrocopos leucotos), the three-toed woodpecker (Picoudes tridactilus), the hazel grouse (Bonasa bonasia) and the black woodpecker (Dryocopus martius).

Despite the Commission's reasoned opinion sent in October 2014 about the need to extend protection areas in the Rila Mountains, Bulgaria has not complied with this obligation. The Commission is, therefore, referring this case to the Court of Justice of the EU.

In January 2016, the Court ruled against Bulgaria (case C-141/14) in a similar case concerning the designation and protection of Kaliakra, another important area for protection of birds in the Southern Dobruja region of the northern Bulgarian Black Sea Coast.

Original article on EC website. 


Animal Welfare Police launched in Bulgaria

Bulgaria has taken the first steps towards the establishment of an animal welfare police service. By a decree of the Minister of the Interior, each regional police department will assign 2 policemen who will be specialized in investigating animal-related crimes. This was announced last Thursday at a press-conference in Bulgarian parliament by Mr. Emil Radev, MEP and member the Intergroup on the Welfare and Conservation of Animals. A further agreement between the Interior Ministry and the Ministry of Agriculture and Food will also be signed in connection with the establishment of the unit, since the Animal Protection Act is within the jurisdiction of the agricultural authority.

Mr. Radev was confident that the specialized units will help speed up the process of investigation of crimes against animals. Currently less than 20% of all registered crimes against animals since 2011 have been resolved, according to official statistics. The animal welfare police officers will undergo trainings, organized together with animal welfare charities.

FOUR PAWS, who have been campaigning actively for a specialized unit for investigation of animal-related crimes, welcome the launching of the animal welfare police in Bulgaria. According to Yavor Gechev, Head of Communications of FOUR PAWS Bulgaria, the establishment of animal welfare police is important not only for the protection of the animals, but also for the development of civic society in this country, as there is a close link between cruelty to animals and crimes against people. The organization is ready to provide assistance to the Bulgarian authorities with the training of the new unit by organizing seminars and inviting guest lecturers from countries where similar units already exist.

Within this new animal police, Bulgaria became the fourth European country, and third EU Country to have such a dedicated police.

Such a dedicated unit has existed in the Netherlands since 2011: “The Animal Cops” with a dedicated hotline to report abuses. Since this date, the Netherlands has had a special office to deal with several animal welfare issues including animal cruelty, animal negligence, illegal trade and zoophilia.

In 2014, The Belgium region Wallonia has improved its system by creating a special animal unit and by creating an online formulary to report animal abuse.

This year, in Norway, the country’s government has announced plans to set up a police force for animals. As a pilot project, the police will be tested for three years, and if the results are conclusive, the project might become more permanent.

We can also mention Italy which has a dedicated police "Corpo Forestale dello Stato" responsible for enforcing poaching laws, safeguarding protected animal species and preventing forest fires. But it doesn't concern all animals.

The creation of animal police is not only helping the animals, but also has positive impacts on prevention of violence toward humans. Therefore we hope that in a near future more countries will follow this good example and stop to consider animal crimes as secondary.


ECHR: information on management of stray dogs by public authorities are of general interest and should be freely accessible


Today, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has given a judgment regarding Bulgarian stray dogs and the right to acccess to information of Animal Welfare NGOs.


Summary of Facts:

In the case Guseva v/ Bulgaria, the applicant, an animal welfare NGO is complaining about the refusal of the municipality of Vidin to provide information about an agreement concluded between the municipality and the municipal company “Cleanliness” EOOD, for the collecting of stray animals on the territory of Vidin municipality.

Facing the refusal of the mayor of the municipality, the organisation has started a legal complaint.

One year later, the same organisation asked to the municipality of Vidin information concerning the annual statistics for 2001 and 2002 about animals held in an animal shelter called “Municipal Care". Once again, the municipality refused to provide the requested information.

In a third demand, few months laters, the animal welfare organisation asked for information regarding public procurement procedure which had been organised by the mayor and aimed at reducing the number of stray dogs in Vidin. The applicant wanted to know the number of the organisations which had tendered for a contract with the municipality, which ones had passed the pre-selection stage, and – in respect of those who have – the following information: the type and number of qualified staff they employed; the infrastructure and facilities they had for humane catching and transportation of dogs; the proof they had presented for their capacity to deliver quality services; and, the price they asked for providing the services. Once again, the municipality refused to provide the requested information.


The procedure in front of the Court

After several complaints and legal procedures with no real result, the applicants decided to make an appeal in front of the Court of Human Rights for infringement of its right to information and to its right to obtain an effective remedy.

The Court concludes to the violation by Bulgaria of Article 10 (freedom of expression) and Article 13 (Right to an effective remedy) of the European Convention of Human Rights. The State of Bulgaria will have to cover the applicant's justice fees and also to pay a remedy of 5,000€.

The Court based its judgment on the fact that information regarding the management of stray animals by the public authorities are information of general interest, meaning that anyone should be able to acceed to this information.


Please read the full text of the judgment on


Bulgaria: bad enforcement of the Zoo Directive

Sibling bears Boyka and Standy had to endure several hours of freezing conditions and ended up snowed in after a heavy winter storm where they live in Nikolovo Mini-Zoo “Lipnik” in Ruse (Bulgaria). A wet concrete floor, cage bars that let wind and snow straight through, and almost no room to move – even the thickest bear fur cannot cope with that. Fortunately, the two bear keepers at the mini-zoo also realised this, so they requested help from the FOUR PAWS team at the DANCING BEARS PARK Belitsa in Bulgaria. As our team arrived, the keepers had already started freeing the bears’ cages from snow and ice, but there were fears for the health of the bears.

More information on


Violence against animals in Bulgaria

8 April 2013    
Monika Flašíková Beňová (S&D)


Bulgaria has recently seen a wave of public outrage, after a dog was attacked with a baseball bat in public. The police were seemingly not even interested in punishing the offender. It is also quite shocking that Bulgaria, a Member State of the European Union, is unwilling in the 21st century to punish crimes committed against animals, even though it has an animal welfare law that prohibits the inhumane treatment of animals.

Can the Commission help to remedy the situation in Bulgaria with regard to this issue? What can be done to effectively prevent the repetition of such appalling and cruel acts?

6 June 2013    
Answer given by Mr Borg on behalf of the Commission

This matter falls within the sole competence of the Member States which usually have national provisions against such acts.

The Commission has no legal power to remedy this kind of situation.