Shadow Report of Coalition 27: A Green Agenda with No Agenda

Coalition 27 presented its tenth annual Shadow Report titled “A Green Agenda with No Agenda” at an event that brought together representatives from the civil sector, the EU Delegation to Serbia, the interested public, and the media.

Covering the period from April 2022 to April 2023, the annual Shadow Report provides an overview of the implementation of the Green Agenda in the Republic of Serbia and tracks Serbia’s progress in Chapter 27: Environment and Climate Change. It includes detailed recommendations for each thematic area.

“A Green Agenda with No Agenda” serves as Coalition 27’s key assessment of the reforms made in this field. The consequences of missed deadlines for implementing legislation on Chapter 27 include issues such as the quality of air, the unavailability of clean, potable water, endangerment to natural habitats and species, and the expansion of illegal landfills. The government’s message is clear: it lacks sufficient commitment to making necessary changes, to the detriment of all citizens, indicating that the environment is not yet a priority. The public lacks all the necessary information to actively participate in decision-making, leading to nontransparent processes, particularly when public debates are scheduled during holidays or the annual vacation season.

In addition to practical implementation, what is also lacking is the completion of important legislative processes, which should have been finalized long ago for many of the documents. The year’s end is near, and we either do not know what kind of progress we made or we do know that we are behind in adopting documents such as the Integrated National Energy and Climate Plan, Environmental Protection Strategy with Action Plan, Law on Environmental Impact Assessment, Law on Strategic Environmental Impact Assessment, Water Law, and the Energy Sector Development Strategy, which are yet to be published. The 2023 budget revision has once again reduced the total budget of the Ministry of Environmental Protection by 4 billion RSD, thus neglecting the actual environmental problems of all citizens of Serbia as well as the recommendations of the European Commission. On the other hand, we have been waiting for a very long time to have annual air quality plans, which means that if we wanted to, only in 2024 could we adopt measures against poor air quality based on data from 2022. When it comes to waste management, we are still lacking in information on the amounts and composition of waste in question and on methods of handling and disposing of waste, whereas at the same time, at least five illegal and unsanitary landfills in Serbia are on fire every day. The conclusion of the new Shadow Report is that the remaining environmental areas—protection against noise, water, forest, and nature management—are also not on the priority list of institutions and that progress has been very slow.

Coalition 27 has drawn attention to another noteworthy point, focusing on the increase in funds allocated for the international exhibition EXPO 2027. According to the existing plans, the investment, including the national stadium, is projected to account for 0.4% of GDP in 2024. This essentially implies that the allocated amount exceeds Serbia’s investments in both environmental protection and education.

The presentation of the Report of Coalition 27 at the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Serbia was introduced by Nicola Bertolini, Head of Cooperation of the Delegation of the European Union in Serbia, who pointed out that working on promoting environmental protection requires significant effort and time, which is why the Shadow Report is extremely important on local and national levels, as well as on the regional level.

If we take a closer look and observe the implementation of policies in local self-government units, we will get a more complete picture of the implementation of the objectives of the Green Deal and Green Agenda, which is why the integral part of the Shadow Report are the Green Cards that show the ways in which local self-government units in Serbia apply environmental policies and standards. Local self-government units frequently lack the capacity to deal with this issue; hence, the state of the analyzed local self-governments is below the minimum standards mandated by law. Local experiences from Arilje, Vršac, Subotica, and Bor, as well as from the representative of the Standing Conference of Towns and Municipalities, were also presented during the event.

As it has previously been announced, the annual report of the European Commission on Serbia’s progress is to be published on November 8th, and based on the Shadow Report on Chapter 27, conclusions ranging from lack of ambition for more substantial reforms and rescheduling deadlines for completing the reforms, processes that are difficult to monitor by the wider public, to lack of adequate funding tell us that progress has been slow and uncoordinated.

For instance, despite the fact that it has been pointed out for years that Chapter 27 is one of the most difficult and financially demanding ones, the Serbian government has yet to establish an operational Green Fund that would finance environmental protection reforms, even though this has been one of the essential recommendations of the European Commission year-on-year. We should bear in mind that despite Chapter 27 being one of the most demanding chapters, financially speaking, the reforms are costly, but they are also necessary because we are already paying the high costs of environmental negligence, and these costs are associated with our health.

The tenth report presents not only the analysis of alignment with European standards but also the image of the Green Agenda in our country, which is also regional, national, and local. Due to several key faults, the impression is made that the Green Agenda is being implemented sporadically and with no agenda.

The presentation of the Shadow Report by Coalition 27 is organized as part of the ECO-SYSTEM programme supported by Sweden. The event is also supported by the European Union, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Serbia, and the Heinrich Böll Foundation.