The European Commission says it is referring Bulgaria to the EU's Court of Justice for ignoring environmental commitments under a decades-old directive on protecting and repairing crucial habitats.
The EU's independent executive arm said on November 12 that Sofia had mismanaged its Natura 2000 "sites of community importance" by failing to declare them special areas of conservation (SACs) and implement conservation measures within the required six years of their listing.
"Bulgaria has not yet designated 194 out of 229 Sites of Community Importance as Special Areas of Conservation within the required time limit and has generally and persistently failed to set site-specific conservation objectives and measures for these sites," the European Commission said in a statement. "These are key requirements to protect biodiversity across the EU."
Preserving natural sites and restoring damaged ecosystems have been prioritized by the commission as part of its European Green Deal and its 10-year biodiversity strategy.
Each EU member state proposes its own sites of special environmental interest for protection under the 1992 Habitats Directive, which envisages an EU-wide network of safeguarded natural areas.
The EU's poorest member, Bulgaria has battled rampant corruption and political stagnation since its accession to the bloc in 2007.
Its voters are going to national polls alongside a presidential election for the third time in less than a year on November 14 after two inconclusive parliamentary elections in April and July, with little sign of a breakthrough.
The commission's suit before the Court of Justice comes after warnings in a formal notice in January 2019 and a follow-up in July 2020.