Bulgaria boosts ecology projects in EU entry drive

SOFIA, Mar 1, 2000 -- (Reuters) Bulgaria's environment minister on Wednesday announced plans to boost the quality of drinking water and tackle waste dumping in a drive to meet European Union environmental standards.

The Balkan state, which hopes to join the EU by 2006, began entry talks last month. Its poor environmental record is thought to be high on the agenda of the talks.

Environment Minister Evdokia Maneva told a news conference the country's National Environmental Fund would help build 21 waste-processing plants and 14 sewage filtration stations.

Maneva said Bulgaria was preparing a $150-million waste plant project in the capital Sofia with the help of EU's pre-accession aid program, ISPA.

"We hope to get $120 million from ISPA so that construction works could start at the end of next year and be completed within two years," she said.

Recycling plants for old cars and old tires are also planned.

Bulgaria's biggest oil refinery, Neftochim, has said it could modernize its refining systems and switch to lead-free petrol this summer. The moves would help speed up the country's attempts to meet EU fuel standards, thought to be another major obstacle for entry candidates, by 2003.

Original article