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Energy transition of the Western Balkans must be fair and inclusive

Programme Director of RERI Mirko Popović, Photo: RERI

BELGRADE – The Berlin Process offers an opportunity for various actors to contribute to the advancement of European integration and the approximation of the Western Balkans region to the European Union, it was stated on Friday during the presentation of recommendations developed by the Thematic Working Group on Energy within the Civil Society Forum, which will be held in Tirana on 14 and 15 October.

As stated during the event organized by the Renewables and Environmental Regulatory Institute (RERI), which leads the working group, energy represents an important but challenging area in the European integration process of the Western Balkans.

Program Director of RERI, Mirko Popović, said that the inclusion of the region in the carbon emissions trading system would be of exceptional importance as a signal that the region belongs in the European Union.

According to him, by 2030, it will be necessary not only to make decisions but also to implement specific policies for the region to contribute to achieving the carbon neutrality goals set by the European Union.

“The period until 2030 will be intensive, and during it, the countries of the region should come closer to the decarbonization goals and climate policies set by the Europan Union as much as possible. The Green Agenda for the Western Balkans has renewed the political commitments of the countries in the region and confirmed their dedication to the energy transition process and the improvement of the region’s sustainability”, Popović said.

He emphasized that the energy transition must not only be fair but also inclusive, based on the contributions of all actors who can participate in the process and provide concrete input for the improvement of public policies.

Speaking about the recommendations developed by civil society, which will be presented during the forum in Tirana, Popović assessed that the recommendations should be translated into concrete measures.

“The least we should expect as civil society is responses to the recommendations. The previous experience of energy transition has shown that civil society can be an effective participant in overcoming problems. However, our previous recommendations have not been implemented, which is an issue that needs to be highlighted”, Popović said.

He also mentioned the issue of the rule of law, which is a key prerequisite for the accession of countries in the region to the EU and should also be a key criterion when it comes to energy policy.

“The problems of the countries in the region are diverse, but there are many similarities. Environmental pollution resulting from unsustainable management of the electricity and energy systems, leading to human rights violations, is a common issue for all. Additionally, we are faced with a problem that is fundamentally related to the rule of law namely the violation of the Energy Community Treaty by the signatory parties”, Popović stated. 

The recommendations proposed by the working group also relate to issues to the implementation of directives from the member states of the Energy Community on large combustion plants and industrial emissions. “We propose that this negotiation process takes on a slightly different negotiating dimension and suggest strengthening the role of European and national parliaments as bearers of sovereignty”, Popović added.

He emphasized that civil society organizations are requesting the European Commission to prepare a report on the implementation of the Energy Community Treaty before its extension in 2026. As he explained, the last such report on the implementation of the treaty was published in 2011, and it would be useful to take stock of progress before extending it.

Photo: FoNet

During the event, energy expert Aleksandar Kovačević presented some recommendations from civil society organizations for decision-makers in the region and the EU. As he explained, these recommendations pertain to two key areas of action: the rule of law and a fair and inclusive energy transition.

According to civil society recommendations, the energy transition in the region should be fair and inclusive, taking into account the issue of extreme energy poverty and addressing the challenges faced by the most vulnerable groups and regions economically dependent on coal exploitation.

Therefore, the decarbonization process needs to embody three key characteristics: democratization, demonopolization, and decentralization, especially in the production of electricity and the roles of households and businesses as producers and consumers of electricity.

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