How many white elephant projects can you fit into EU funds programming?
Bankwatch Mail | 8 August 2014
Some Czech projects proposed for EU funding are already sticking out as ‘white elephant’ investments. As the final spending decisions for 2014-2020 shape up, Bankwatch will be keeping a close eye on the likely stampede of similar project concepts all across central and eastern Europe.
This article is from Issue 60 of our quarterly newsletter Bankwatch Mail
Throughout the past seven year EU budgetary period, the Czech authorities have tried but failed to deploy a single euro from the EU funds for waste incinerators – this in spite of three major incinerator projects, with a total estimated budget of over EUR 200 million, having been planned.
Two of these projects remain a long way off from realisation, as spatial planning permits for them have recently been revoked by the courts. The third, the Chotikov incinerator near Plzen, was started, but the investor gave up asking for EU funding following tough questioning from the European Commission regarding waste management in the Plzen region. In spite of these setbacks, for the 2014-2020 EU budgetary period and instead of focusing on recycling and waste prevention, the Czech Republic plans to use EU funding to build two new incinerators near the cities of Most and Karviná.
Both proposed projects are located in heavily polluted areas, both lack the requisite spatial planning permission, and both are being contested by local populations.
Another project that has been hanging around for some time now is the Děčín dam on the River Labe. The last straight of the Labe in the Czech Republic, passing through a deep gorge between two nature protected sandstone massives, is the last unregulated piece of major water current in the country. Home to many endangered species such as the beaver and part of salmon and eel migration routes, it is on the list of projects for the Czech Republic’s OP Transport. The Highest Auditing Court has ruled this investment to be economically unprofitable, and the German authorities do not plan to invest into continuing the river straight from the border to Dresden.
With an under-used TEN-E railway corridor running parallel to the river, and the new D8 motorway linking Prague and Dresden just 20 kilometres away, the question remains why should this long time ‘ghost’ transportation project now be scheduled to rise from the dead with EU funding, when this part of the Labe should – by rights – become protected under the EU’s Natura 2000 network?