Western Balkans: No Transparency and Slow Environmental Reforms

zagađenje životne sredine

The lack of transparency in the decision making process and inconsistent implementation of the existing legislation, even when it‘s aligned with European environmental acquis, are still the greatest environmnetal issues in the Western Balkans region. This was concluded at the onloine meeting of European Commission representatives with civil society organizations from Western Balkans and Turkey. The meeting objective was to involve the environmental CSOs from Western Balkans and Turkey into the ongoing policy debate about new environmental priorities arising from the European Green Deal and enlargement process.

Proposals of the representatives from the Western Balkans and Turkey included urgent measures to reduce air pollution, as well as development of the infrastructure for wastewater treatment. Another recurring topic was Natura 2000 – the network covering Europe’s most valuable habitats under special legal protection. Although there has been some effort to join Serbian nature reserves to this network – there is still no palpable progress. In fact, these areas are in greatest danger to date, due to the accelerated construction of small hydropower plants that are ravaging Balkan rivers and their adjacent ecosystems.

The meeting gathered 24 civil society organizations, representing all of the EPPA beneficiary countries. Milka Gvozdenović, coordinator for environmental policy and networking, represented Young Researchers of Serbia. The meeting was chaired by the representatives of the European Commission: Ms. Madalina Ivanica and Ms. Guillemette Vachey. They reiterated the importance of civil sector‘s participation in the public debate about the environmental issues and reforms, announcing greater pressure on governments of the EU members and candidates when it comes to implementing environmnetal protection policies.

During the meeting, Tanja Hafner Ademi – team leader of an ongoing, EU-funded project “Technical Assistance to Civil Society Organisations (EU TACSO 3)”, shared information about the project. She also talked about building capacities of the regional ministries to adopt and monitor the EU environmental acquis. Mihail Dimovski, EPPA Team Leader, gave presentation on EPPA activities geared towards alignment of the Green Agenda for the Western Balkans with the European Green Deal.

Representatives of the European Environmental Bureau and the Nature Conservancy, Patrizia Heidegger and Henrik Osterblad held a course for the participants, teaching them how to approach environmental issues,and communicate and work with the European Commission.

Participants expressed hope that a constructive dialogue between the civil sector and European Commission would continue, considering the importance of direct feedback for the success of European Green Plan and Green Agenda for the Western Balkans.

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