On October 6th, the European Commission published the Guidelines for the Implementation of the Green Agenda for the Western Balkans, as part of its 9 billion Euro Economic and Investment Plan for the Western Balkans.

The document details the five pillars of the Green Agenda, which overlaps with the European Green Deal:

(1) climate action, including decarbonisation, energy and mobility, 

(2) circular economy, addressing in particular waste, recycling, sustainable production and efficient use of resources, 

(3) biodiversity, aiming to protect and restore the natural wealth of the region, 

(4) fighting pollution of air, water and soil and 

(5) sustainable food systems and rural areas.

The document outlines the most important initiatives that will be pursued as part of each of the five pillars through a joint action by the EU and the Western Balkan partners. Some of the proposed initiatives include:

  • Developing private and public building renovation schemes and securing appropriate financing, by extending the “EU renovation wave” to the Western Balkans  
  • Implementing programmes addressing energy poverty in the region
  • Implementation of the regional action plan for rail reforms
  • Planning and implementing sustainable mobility solutions, including alternative fuels infrastructure, charging stations
  • Developing circular economy strategies looking at the entire lifecycle of products, waste prevention, modern waste management and recycling, re-use, repair and remanufacturing
  • Construction and maintenance of waste management infrastructure
  • Developing and implementing Air Quality Strategies,  
  • Uptake of Best Available Techniques in line with the Industrial Emissions Directive  Accreditation of air quality monitoring networks
  • Environmentally friendly and organic farming and reduction of synthetic chemical products used in food production: pesticides, veterinary medicines and fertilisers
  • Actions to reduce waste in rural and coastal areas (along roads, in rural rivers)
  • Knowledge exchange among the WB and EU research centres, and explore options to set up the Western Balkans Biodiversity Information Hub

Digitalisation will be a key enabler for the above five pillars in line with the concept of the dual green and digital transition.

The environmental network Bankwatch, has described the document as one with  “plenty of good ideas, but a conspicuous absence of enforcement mechanisms’. Moreover, it has added that “it is full of support, promotion, facilitation, and assisting, but short on binding measures. What is more, they have also been critical about the absence of clear alignment between the Green Agenda and the Economic and Investment Plan for the Western Balkans.

It remains to be seen how the proposed strategy will be translated into financial instruments and mechanisms of implementation, the details of which are expected to be published in early 2021.

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