The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, has announced a substantial energy support package of one billion euros in EU grants to aid the Western Balkans in tackling the consequences of the energy crisis and building resilience in the short and medium-term. The announcement was made during the Berlin Process Summit.
In the immediate term, the Commission is ready to provide a 500 million euro support budget, which will be adopted in December and made available in January. This amount will support households and small and medium-sized enterprises to cushion the energy price hikes.
“The EU continues to stand behind the Western Balkans – both in good times and in hardship,” said Mrs von der Leyen. “During the COVID-19 pandemic, we mobilised an unparalleled 3.3 billion euro package for the region and today we are putting together a 1 billion euros energy support package to protect the most vulnerable groups and boost much-needed investments in energy diversification. We are investing in the economic fabric of the region to advance in the clean energy transition and come out greener, stronger and more sustainable from the current crisis.”
Over the short and medium term, the Commission will provide another 500 million euros to accelerate energy diversification, renewable energy generation and gas and electricity interconnections, via the Western Balkans Investment Framework. The short-term measures (next 1-2 years) will support the diversification of energy supplies by boosting gas and electricity interconnectors, including LNG as well as supporting the construction of renewable energy projects and energy efficiency measures.
Whilst the medium-term assistance (next 2-3 years) will include other investments contributing to the energy transition and security. These measures will cover large-scale renewable energy generation projects, upgrade of energy transmission systems, district heating and schemes for energy efficiency for the old blocks-of-flats.
During the Summit, the region also endorsed a declaration on energy security cooperation, in which the leaders committed to redoubling their effort to implement the Green Agenda for the Western Balkans aligned with the EU’s Green Deal.
European Investment Bank gives the green light
Lilyana Pavlova, the Vice President of the bloc’s lending arm – the European Investment Bank (EIB) – reaffirmed the bank’s support for the green transition and energy security in the region. Under its new dedicated structure, EIB Global, the Bank is scaling up financial and technical support to help the region move forward with the Green Agenda, diversify its energy mix and increase resilience to climate change. Ms Pavlova highlighted the 1 billion euro energy support package as a clear demonstration of the European Union’s solidarity with the region.
“Diversifying the energy mix and increasing the resilience of the region to climate change will bring great benefits to citizens,” said Vice-President Pavlova. “As the EU bank, the EIB will accompany you throughout this journey. We will put our comprehensive mix of lending, blending and advisory services at the heart of these efforts. As always, we will do this alongside partners and Team Europe approach to implementing the European Union’s Economic and Investment Plan.”
The EU’s energy offensive amid a continent-wide crisis
The EU’s latest energy package follows Ursula von der Leyen’s recent visit to the region, during which parts of the support package had been announced. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Commission President confirmed 70 million euros in short-term measures in the form of investments in more reliable energy sources including solar, wind or biomass.
Whilst during the President’s visit to Serbia, an immediate 165 million euro grant support package for the country was secured, along with an invitation to join the EU’s joint energy procurement platform.
In addition to Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia, Ms von der Leyen also visited North Macedonia and Albania. A visit to Montenegro had also been planned, however “due to bad weather”, the Commission President was unable to visit the country.