Bulgaria aims for rapid end to leaded petrol

EU candidate country set to overtake some existing members if proposal approved

Bulgaria's environment ministry is pushing for tax changes to effectively phase-out leaded petrol by the end of this year. The plan would put Bulgaria at the forefront of central and eastern European EU candidate countries on the issue, according to European Commission officials. It also means that Bulgaria is set to overtake two existing EU members who won controversial two-year derogations from a general EU-wide ban on leaded petrol sales from 1 January this year.

Under the proposals, announced by junior environment minister Neno Dimov yesterday, the government would introduce a 15% tax differential in favour of unleaded petrol. This could encourage Bulgaria's biggest refinery to switch entirely to producing unleaded petrol by 1 January 2001, the minister said. The plan must be accepted by the finance ministry and the national parliament to take effect.

A general EU ban on leaded petrol took effect at the beginning of this year under the 1998 fuel quality directive (ENDS Daily 30 June 1998). The rule will also be applied to accession countries, which are expected to start joining the EU from 2003. Late last year, Italy and Spain persuaded the Commission that millions of their cars would not be able to run on unleaded petrol so soon and won derogations to the end of 2001 (ENDS Daily 20 December 1999). France also won a five-derogation for its overseas territories.

Follow Up:
Bulgarian environment ministry, tel: +359 2 940 6222.

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