Bulgaria: Tries to Soften UNESCO Pirin Park Decision

Bulgaria is lobbying 11 countries to amend an important forthcoming decision by UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee on the Pirin National Park – a UNESCO heritage site.

The UNESCO Committee is due to adopt the decision at its 42nd session on Thursday in Bahrein.

The World Heritage Committee consists of representatives from states that are parties to the 1972 World Heritage Convention. At its annual session, it reviews the state of conservation of World Heritage sites and inscribes new sites on the World Heritage List.

However, Bulgaria has mustered the support of 11 countries for amendments to the UNESCO decision, from Azerbaijan, Cuba, Burkina-Faso, Bosnia, Zimbabwe, China, Tanzania, Brazil, Tunis, Kuwait and Angola.

The amendments would significantly dilute the proposed text.

They delete all mention of a Supreme Administrative Court ruling, rejecting the Bulgarian Environment Ministry’s decision not to undertake a Strategic Environmental Assessment for the new park management plan.

They also remove the Committee’s own expression of concern about changes to the current management plan, of December 2017.

The Commitee’s original decision called for those changes not to be implemented until the courts decided on a new draft management plan – still pending – engaging NGOs and other stakeholders in its drafting and implementation, and which had undergone a strategic environmental assessment.

These recommendations were based on a March 2018 Mission report of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, IUCON, an international organization working in nature conservation, to the Pirin National Park.

The changes to the Pirin park management plan, introduced by Boyko Borissov’s government on its last working day of 2017, angered environmentalists and civil activists who said they would permit further construction in the park.

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