Home Politics Policy brief: civil society and the EU can contribute to environmental democracy in the Western Balkans

Policy brief: civil society and the EU can contribute to environmental democracy in the Western Balkans

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VIENNA – Environmental issues in the Western Balkan countries have become topical, especially in recent years, with a significant increase in the number of NGOs active in this sector. Their participation in the implementation of environmental policies should be supported to strengthen environmental democracy, recommends the Policy Brief.Environmental democracy in the Western Balkans between dependent capitalism and integration into the European Union» published within the “WB2EU” network.

Developments such as Chinese investments in the energy sector, the construction of mini-hydroelectric plants in the region and lithium mining projects in Serbia by the Anglo-Australian multinational Rio Tinto have been followed by actions by local NGOs against these projects and saw the emergence of environmental conflicts, which led to changes in the positions of local governments, the document reads.

This contributed to the strengthening of environmental democracy in Serbia, which is based on three pillars: first, free access to information on environmental problems and quality; second, participation in decision-making; and third, the enforcement of environmental laws.

Another important actor for the promotion of environmental democracy in the Western Balkans is the European Union, which achieves this goal through European projects and the negotiation of the agreement Community acquis for the accession of these countries to the EU.

One way to achieve this is to demand the strengthening of the institutional framework and enforcement capacities of legislation on the environment and climate change, which remains a problem in the region.

Also in this context, the role of civil society organizations dealing with the environmental sector is crucial, according to a policy brief. However, without a clear timetable for the European integration of Western Balkan countries, economic dependence on non-European international actors may continue with the strengthening of dependent capitalism and its negative effects on the environment.

In 2020, the EU presented a “Green Agenda for the Western Balkans”, which is structured around five major areas covered by the “European Green Deal”: decarbonization, depollution of air, water and soils, the circular economy, agriculture and food production, and protecting biodiversity. The region commits to achieving carbon neutrality by 2050, aligning with key elements of the European Green Deal and implementing the Western Balkans Action Plan.

The energy sector in the Western Balkans is still characterized by insufficient and outdated infrastructure, high dependence on fossil fuels, late adoption of renewable energy, with the exception of residential biomass and hydropower, limited energy efficiency, high rates of energy poverty despite generally high levels of subsidies, market mechanisms and private sector participation, the document recalls.

The Policy Brief is published as part of the WB2EU project. The project aims to establish a network of renowned think tanks, working groups, universities, higher education institutes and policy centers from the Western Balkans, neighboring countries and EU Member States that will be the most decisive for the process of enlargement and Europeanization of the European Union. the region in the years to come. The WB2EU project is co-financed by the European Commission as part of its Erasmus+ Jean Monnet programme.

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