The 21st European Forum on Eco-innovation, held on February 5 – 6 in Sofia Tech Park within the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of EU started on the background of a protest. Environmental organizations acted against the 12/28/2017 decision of the Council of Ministers for changes in the Pirin National Park’s management plan. The protesters raised their posters with slogans, defending the Pirin Mountain and insisted on the resignation of Minister of Environment and Waters Neno Dimov.
“We now live in democracy where people can have different opinions and may express them. We, politicians, should find the balance of opinions. Everyone has the right to voice to the others his or her interests and to defend their stance, of course bearing the respective responsibility for doing so,” Minister Dimov commented.
The protesters stated that clean air and the protection of forests are tightly connected and that is why it is essential to protect the ‘lungs’ of the planet prior to any talks on eco-innovations.
“You can’t talk about fresh air and allow the logging of century-old forests. We want the colleagues of Mr. Dimov to learn about what’s been happening. It is important for the society to know that forest protection is a way to cope with climate change,” is the opinion of Kalina Boyadzhieva and Martina Popova from WWF – Bulgaria.
The eco-innovation forum was attended by politicians, diplomats, experts and scientists from the EU, the Western Balkans, the Eastern Partnership and the Black Sea region. At its unveiling Minister Dimov underlined that air quality was one of the priorities of the Bulgarian Council of EU Presidency.
“Air quality determines quality of life. Air doesn’t recognize state borders, there are no working hours. We all need it every minute.”, Minister Dimov further said. “That is why I would like all of us to refer to the tasks of today’s forum as urgent in terms of their solving. Whenever we talk about environmental issues and the planet we tend to have this strategic approach with long-term planning. In the name of 500 mln. Europeans’ health today it is not enough and that is why we need to act. That was why Bulgaria opted for air quality as a priority of its Presidency. I raise the issue here for you today and the forum’s results I shall present to my colleagues – the EU environmental ministers, at the April-held informal council.”
“Bad air quality in Europe causes 400,000 deaths across the continent annually,” said in a video message EU Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Karmenu Vella. According to him, what we all need are new approaches, technologies, innovative environmental decisions, analyses and discussions, shared by everyone. That is why the air quality eco-innovations forum provides an opportunity for Europe to take over the leadership in the transition to cleaner economy.
“It is essential to work together, in order to find the best approach to move forward,” Director-General of DG Environment Daniel Calleja Crespo underlined in his turn. “We want this forum to be a place for ideas exchange, where different interested parties focus on practically applicable innovative decisions. The EC shall work more for regulation, for imposing of rules, for monitoring and financial aid.” Daniel Calleja Crespo further said that the EU has set the goal to reduce harmful emissions of vehicles via encouragement of electric transportation technologies.
Solid fuels are also one of the major air polluters in Bulgaria, alongside old cars’ harmful emissions. Chair of Environmental Committee with parliament Ivelina Vasileva says that the actions for coping with bad air should be complex. Social benefits are still in the form of granting money for the purchase of coal or wood – two of the largest air polluters. That is why part of the issue’s solutions depends on the implementation of new, cleaner technologies in heating systems.
In her turn Bulgarian MEP Iskra Mihaylova, who also attended the forum outlined that innovations, including the environmental ones should be a focal point of the future EU financial frame for the period after 2020.
English version: Zhivko Stanchev