EU funds for the 2014-2020 budgetary period look set to further fuel the massive over-exploitation of biomass for energy use in Slovakia. Formally, both the European Commission and the Slovak Ministry of Economy have announced the introduction of sustainability rules to govern the use of new EU money. Yet only the final phase of EU funds programming – now under way – will determine whether or not this latest injection of EU investment money will recklessly contribute to the destruction of Slovakia’s key natural treasure – its forests.
During last month's EBRD annual meeting in Warsaw, Bankwatch Mail convened a discussion about the state of the Polish economy between a financial journalist and a sociologist – both residents of the Polish capital – to hear their views on some of the pressing economic issues of the day, as well as the ongoing Polish 'transition' process. With the 25th anniversary of the end of communist rule in Poland a few months away now (today in fact marks a quarter of a century since the first Polish elections under communism), what have been the achievements and the lessons to be learned from the last two and half decades?
While the EU regulations for the Cohesion Policy 2014-2020 themselves contain many important provisions on integrating environmental protection and fostering sustainable development, the draft Partnership Agreements and Operational Programmes presented by national governments do not fully exploit the potential to build a green, sustainable economy with the help of the EU budget.
CEE Bankwatch Network and Friends of the Earth campaigners across the central and eastern Europe region have reviewed the draft documents, detecting a number of problematic issues – both regarding the funding priorities and the process of EU funds programming itself.
During the Cohesion Policy programming process, we have observed that environmental sustainability is not being appropriately included in the Operational Programmes and Partnership Agreements. This info-kit for those involved in the programming therefore offers suggestions for environmental and climate mainstreaming measures.
These policy recommendations propose mechanisms for the mobilisation of public-private financing for community based sustainable energy projects in Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Latvia and Slovakia.
This expertise summarises the results of expert workshops and aims to contribute to the development of viable financing and investment schemes for Community Power to be introduced particularly in CEE countries in order to tackle financial barriers that prevent or delay the development of community-owned energy projects in the region.
The EU-backed Energy Community Treaty, signed in 2005 and comprising the western Balkan countries, Ukraine and Moldova, has been widely hailed as encouraging regional co-operation. It also sets a legislative framework for the signatories (also known as the contracting parties) that should contribute, along with the EU accession process, to addressing the environmental and social impacts of the energy sector. Indeed, examples of the Energy Community's added value are its adoption of renewable energy targets in October 2012, as well as a requirement for power plants to comply with EU emissions limits.
Issue 58 of Bankwatch Mail, published as stakeholders meet in the European Parliament to discuss the future of the 'Energy Community'. Comprising the countries of the western Balkans, Moldova and Ukraine, the Energy Community aims primarily to extend EU internal energy policy to south east Europe and the Black Sea region. Its modus operandi and achievements are now being evaluated at high level, which - as this issue shows - is undoubtedly necessary given the stunning number of highly questionable coal and lignite fired power plants that are proceeding in various Energy Community members.
At the peak of EU funds’ programming, experiences from CEE countries reveal deficiencies in the application of the Code of Conduct and a flawed implementation of the partnership principle. This undermines the credibility of the programming process and leaves benefits of a comprehensive involvement of all stakeholders untapped. The sometimes even entertaining list of partnership shortcomings brings us to the conclusion that a purely voluntary partnership without common standards much too often continues to end up being a purely formal exercise, and that the promotion of best practices alone is not sufficient to ensure quality partnership.