EU’s energy strategy in the Balkans questioned by MEPs
Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) and local Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) worry that the European Commission is bypassing civil society and environmental rules in its Western Balkan strategy.
Energy ministers from the Western Balkans, Moldova and Ukraine are meeting today to draw up a strategy for the region.
The overall plan is put together by the European Commission as part of an EU cooperation treaty for the Balkans and Ukraine, known as the Energy Community. Other task forces created under the treaty deal with energy efficiency, renewables, and the environment.
However, four MEPs and several NGOs filed multiple complaints to the Commission over an alleged lack of transparency when the strategy was being designed, and for its limited, “ridiculously low” environmental targets.
Marlene Holzner, spokesperson for the European Commission's directorate in charge of energy, said the strategy represents a descriptive summary of existing data and commitments.
The two main issues that led to the drafting of the document were the anticipated gap between power supply and demand in the coming decade in the Energy Community, and the high level of investment needs in energy infrastructure development, she adds.
The opaque nature of the strategy has raised objections from NGOs and MEPs. Although civil society organisations were consulted, they were not provided with a draft of the strategy before they could provide their feedback.
The only way they could give their input was by completing an internet-based questionnaire, which the MEPs claimed was not nearly good enough.
Ionut Apostol, of green NGO CEE Bankwatch Network, said the draft focuses too exclusively on short-term goals and there are no specific benefits for the countries involved.
NGOs and the signatory MEPs claim that the task force is more focused on attracting investment than anything else. They believe the strategy should set firm foundations for regional energy cooperation and high environmental standards.
Slovenian MEP, Jelko Kacin said they plan to bring together experts from the region and the Commission to a public hearing in the European Parliament in Brussels in the coming weeks.