The EU confirmed at its summit with the leaders of Western Balkan countries that they would receive EUR 9 billion in grants and EUR 20 billion in investments. An agreement was reached on the Green Agenda Action Plan for climate action reforms, pollution control, nature and biodiversity protection and regional integration, including 2024 as the first indicative timeframe for the harmonization with the EU Emissions Trading System.
Almost one year after signing the Sofia Declaration, heads of state and government of the Western Balkans agreed with the European Union to implement the Green Agenda Action Plan, which opens the way for the Economic and Investment Plan for the region worth EUR 30 billion. They took on the obligation to put sustainable development, resource efficiency, nature protection and climate action in the centre of all economic activities and align with the EU’s objectives.
The document prepared by Regional Cooperation Council (RCC) was adopted in Slovenia at the EU-Western Balkans Summit. In the 58-point Action Plan for the Green Agenda for the Western Balkans for the period until 2030, carbon pricing, coal phaseout plans, regional integration, pollution control and environmental protection are the most important segments.
Important decisions taken at the Summit to help us move forward:
• €1.1 billion total available under the Investment Plan in 2021
• Action Plan for the Western Balkan Green Agenda
• Innovation Agenda
• Reducing roaming charges between the EU and the Western Balkans pic.twitter.com/6dKVbYcs2c
— Ursula von der Leyen (@vonderleyen) October 6, 2021
EUR 1.1 billion to become available by year-end
The investment package comprises EUR 9 billion in grant funding and EUR 20 billion in investments, leveraged by the new Western Balkans Guarantee Facility. The countries of the region need to undertake economic and social reforms as well as to strengthen the rule of law, EU leaders said and also highlighted the benefits for competitiveness and the digital transition.
Countries of the region said they would adopt energy and climate ambitions that match the EU’s targets
The EU said that together with the EUR 600 million that the European Commission would propose under the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA), EUR 1.1 billion would be made available by the end of the year for the implementation of the Economic and Investment Plan.
The Western Balkans have a task to adopt energy and climate ambitions that match the EU’s target to slash greenhouse gas emissions by 55% by the end of the decade and other related goals, which requires a major transformation.
Financial assistance to be provided for rollout of carbon pricing mechanisms
The countries of the region must resolve the challenges arising from the coal phaseout like unemployment, economic disruption and workforce migration, according to the declaration from the summit. Decarbonization will be achieved “through the use of renewable or less carbon-intensive fuels” but with energy security as another priority, the EU said.
The leaders of the 27-member bloc promised to offer technical and financial assistance for the development of a carbon pricing policy in the context of the EU Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM), essentially a tax on carbon dioxide for imported goods and electricity.
The Green Agenda Action Plan consists of five pillars:
- Circular economy,
- Sustainable agriculture and
- Protection of nature and biodiversity.
Deadline for alignment with EU ETS set for 2024
In the decarbonization chapter, the indicative deadline for aligning with the European Climate Law with a vision of achieving climate neutrality is set for 2025, compared to 2024 for the harmonization with the EU Emissions Trading System or EU ETS and the introduction of other carbon pricing instruments.
The Western Balkans will need to adopt strategies by 2023 that would cover the entire lifecycle of products
The Western Balkans agreed to prioritize and fund energy efficiency measures, phase out coal subsidies and introduce programs to tackle energy poverty.
The circular economy pillar implies the development of strategies by 2023 that would cover the entire lifecycle of products. The governments vowed to raise awareness on waste prevention, separate collection and sustainable consumption.
On the depollution front, the measures include the ratification of the Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution and its protocols by 2025. The plan is also to implement air quality strategies and build the necessary infrastructure for wastewater treatment by 2030.
As for sustainable agriculture, 2026 was determined as the indicative timeframe for standards on food safety, plant and animal health and welfare and waste management, and the promotion of zero pollution and organic farming and the reduction of synthetic chemical products used in food production. Renewable energy and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions will need to be among the measures in agriculture.
The countries of the region took on the responsibility for preparing forest landscape restoration plans with financial components by 2024.