The leaders of the Western Balkan countries signed a Declaration on the Green Agenda, expressing their intention to join the path set out by the European Union, during their summit organised in Sofia within the Berlin Process, which was established to help the integration of the Western Balkan countries into the EU.
The Green Agenda for the Western Balkans came as part of the presentation of a 9 billion euros Economic and Investment Plan for the Western Balkans adopted by the European Commission in early October. The majority of this support would be directed towards key productive investments and sustainable infrastructure in the region.
The Declaration is in line with the EU’s flagship efforts to combat climate change, protect the environment and unlock the economic potential of the region’s green, low-carbon and circular economy.
The countries of the Western Balkans now have to demonstrate their readiness and commitment to achieving the goals of the European Green Deal, by making a significant contribution to the Green Agenda for the region.
The countries are committed to action in five key areas covered by the Green Deal: decarbonisation, water and soil, circular economy, farming and food production and protecting biodiversity and air pollution.
There’s definitely a lot to do. Air pollution is a key concern in the region as the widespread use of coal and wood for energy production, as well as polluting trucks and cars, leads to cities and towns in the region registering air quality levels among the worst in Europe during winter.
The 16 coal-fired electricity plants in the region emit more sulphur dioxide than the entire 250 similar plants in the EU. In this respect, decarbonisation and depollution will go hand in hand. Moving away from coal would improve the quality of life and bring important health-related annual savings to the Western Balkan budgets.
The Commission also highlighted that innovative green and digital technologies will be central to deliver on green ambition as they create new business models, enable more productivity, provide workers with new skills while supporting the decarbonisation of the economy. Research and innovation systems will require increased public funding in order to play a key role in these efforts and the Commission is ready to promote funding schemes for businesses operating in the field of green innovation and technologies to further this objective.