Common grazing land in Bulgaria - overview of current status and management challenges
Yanka Kazakova-Mateva, V. Stefanova
European Forum on Nature Conservation and Pastoralism (EFNCP), Bulgaria
Common grazing in Bulgaria is a historical tradition. It gives the right to the people (farmers) of a settlement to graze their animals on the common grazing land. The legislation considers as common grazing lands only the municipal and/or state land for public use usually named as “meri and pastures”. Municipal and state lands for private use are mainly arable land normally contracted for individual management only.
In 2008, the total area of “meri and pastures” (excluding forest pastures) in Bulgaria covers 1.105.911 ha. State and municipal “meri and pastures” cover 439 452 ha (NSI, 2009). This is almost 40% of the total pasture land in Bulgaria (excluding meadows) and 62% of the total land owned by municipalities or the state.
The first legislative act regulating the use of common lands in Bulgaria is from 1904. It was followed by rules for its implementation as well as several modifications and a couple of additional acts regulating the measurement ‘meri’ and the use of high mountain and forest pastures. Several of the provisions in these early acts are being used also in the contemporary legislation.
Prior to Bulgaria’s accession to the EU, there were no area-based payments for farming and thus, the common use of land was regulated either following the historical regulations or, in many cases, informally. The introduction of the CAP support measures and direct payments in 2007 required a legal right for land use. The decision of the general assembly of the settlement did not have this power until then.
The paper reviews the steps undertaken to address the eligibility of common land for CAP support. Recognizing that it is a rather new framework and experience is still developing, a number of still open issues that need to be addressed are discussed.