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Civil society organisations ask the EU to promote sustainable energy investments instead of fossil gas in the Western Balkans

Thirty-six civil society organisations (CSOs) call on the European Commission to ramp up sustainable energy investments, instead of continuing to promote fossil gas in the Western Balkans.

“Tackling electricity distribution losses, increasing the use of heat pumps and rooftop solar, innovative heat storage technologies and deep renovation of residential buildings need much more high-level attention from the European Commission to make up for the years lost promoting fossil gas”, Nataša Kovačević, Heating Sector Decarbonisation Campaigner in the Western Balkans at CEE Bankwatch Network said.

Today the region is much less gas-dependent than the European Union and wants to free itself from fossil gas imports after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, informs a press statement of CEE Bankwatch Network

Currently, Serbia, as well as parts of North Macedonia and Bosnia and Herzegovina consume Russian gas, mainly for heating. Serbia uses fossil gas mostly for district heating but less for power and for individual households.

North Macedonia has increased its fossil gas consumption for power and heat in recent years. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, only four towns and cities are connected to the gas network, while Kosovo*, Montenegro and Albania hardly use gas at all and do not have functional distribution networks. The Trans-Adriatic Pipeline crosses Albania but so far provides no gas to the country. 

“[…] Our low gas dependency is a plus, not a minus, as we move towards electrification of heating and transport”, Denis Žiško from the Aarhus Center in Bosnia and Herzegovina said.

“New infrastructure built now will end up either as stranded assets or as a fossil gas lock-in that will hinder renewables development in the region”, he emphasised.

Despite the fact that the Western Balkans have committed to phasing out fossil fuel use by 2050, according to the press statment, the Commission has actively encouraged increasing fossil gas consumption in the region in recent years, mainly via the Southern Gas Corridor from Azerbaijan, despite the Shah Deniz gas field project being 20 per cent owned by Russia’s Lukoil.

“Irrespective of whether it is from Russia, Azerbaijan or elsewhere, increasing our import dependency is the last thing we need – a fact underlined by this winter’s gas price hikes and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. As the EU finally realises that its own energy security cannot be based on fossil gas imports, so too must the Commission urgently stop promoting this dead-end in the Western Balkans”, Nevena Smilevska of Eko-Svest in North Macedonia underlined.

* This designation is without prejudice to positions on status and is in line with UNSCR 1244/99 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo declaration of independence.

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