14 December 2019

In August 2019, Capital newspaper filed a request to the Minister of Environment and Water, Mr. Neno Dimov, requesting access to information concerning shipments of waste imports to Bulgaria in 2017 and 2018. The Ministry forwarded the application to the Environment and Water Executive Agency (EWEA). The latter refused to provide the information requested on the ground that this very information does not count as "public".

In the meantime, Capital newspaper filed a new request to the EWEA, asking the administrative body to provide with the following information on waste imports to Bulgaria for the period 2014-2019:

In September 2019, EWEA's director refused to provide the requested information. He referred to provisions in the Waste Management Act but did not point out any specific grounds for refusal under the APIA. With the expert support of attorney-at-law Alexander Kashumov, head of AIP's legal team, an appeal against the two refusals was filed. A case hearing was scheduled and the ACSC decided to annul EWEA's refusal to grant access to the information requested by Capital newspaper. As of December 14th, the EWEA has 14 days to provide access to the requested information regarding the waste import companies, their countries of origin and the type of waste imported.

According to the court decision, "the nature of the public relations regulated by the Environmental Protection Act (EPA) (...) implies maximum transparency of any activity that could affect environmental aspects as described by the EPA". The Environmental Protection Act and the Aarhus Convention (ratified by Bulgaria), as well as the Bulgarian case-law, requires easy access to information related to the environment and therefore to human health.

"This decision is revolutionary, because it clearly indicates the balance between trade secret and citizens' right to healthy and favorable environment, which undoubtedly includes the right to access to environmental information" sayd Kashumov.