Accession aid failing environmental projects
European aid to Central and Eastern Europe countries is not supporting green, sustainable projects, while some funding is going towards programmes that are damaging the environment, according to a new report. Local authorities are also poorly informed on the procedures and qualifying criteria for funding applications.
The report by the CEE Bankwatch Network and Friends of the Earth Europe says that EU pre-accession funds for candidate countries could be better targeted at schemes that will benefit conservation, agriculture and the environment. European Environment Commissioner Margot Wallström recently warned candidate countries that much investment was needed to raise their environmental standards, but that pre-accession funds would contribute to those costs (see related story).
Some funds are currently being invested in projects such as a motorway in Bulgaria and a highway in the Czech Republic. Although necessary for the development of infrastructure, such large scale projects often fail to meet environmental protection and high environmental standards that are pre-requisites for accession. End-of-pipe solutions are also favoured over more ‘pro-active’ approaches like recycling and waste minimisation, says the report.
“Environmental concerns are often shoved aside when large-scale infrastructure is at stake,” says Jozsef Feiler, policy co-ordinator for the CEE Bankwatch Network. “Our countries cannot afford to waste money, so we need to push for the sustainable use of funds on environmental, social and economic grounds,” says Magda Stoczkiewicz, accession co-ordinator for CEE and FoE Europe.
The report also calls for greater transparency and public participation in the guidelines and allocation of pre-accession funds. According to Juraj Zamkovsky from Friends of the Earth Slovakia, many local authorities do not have information on the criteria and procedures for applying for funding. A Polish survey showed less than a third of municipalities were familiar with the criteria that determined whether their proposed project qualified for support.
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