EU launches Secretariat to help coal regions in transition in Western Balkans and Ukraine

The European Commission has launched the Secretariat of a new initiative to help coal regions in the Western Balkans and Ukraine transition away from coal towards a carbon-neutral economy.

According to the Commission, mirroring the successful EU Initiative for coal regions in transition, the newly established secretariat will deliver support to coal regions in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia, and Ukraine.

The Commission said 17 regions with significant coal mining activities and coal-based energy production will be the key beneficiaries. The initiative’s secretariat will provide direct support for its implementation and ensure collaboration across the diversity of institutions and actors that the initiative will engage, the Commission said in a press release on February 15.

“The EU has put ‘just transition’ at the very heart of its roadmap towards a resilient, climate-neutral and future-proof economy and the European Green Deal,” EU Commission Director-General for Energy Ditte Juul Jorgensen said. “We recognize that not all regions and countries have the same starting point on the path to climate neutrality, and that is why the European Green Deal includes a ‘just transition’ chapter, which provides for specific support to the regions and people most affected by the transition. This includes regions with ongoing coal mining activity and people currently active in the coal sector,” he added.

The new initiative builds on the experiences of the initiative for coal regions in the EU, which has connected stakeholders, provided technical assistance and developed support materials for affected regions since 2017. These activities focus on the EU’s just transition efforts, which aim to alleviate socioeconomic consequences of transition, while promoting the development of new, future-oriented economic activities. The two initiatives will benefit from manifold synergies and support each other’s implementation.

The European Commission is collaborating in this new initiative with international partners, notably including the World Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), the Energy Community Secretariat, Poland’s National Fund for Environment Protection and Water Management, and the College of Europe in Natolin. The partners launched the initiative on 10-11 December 2020.

The first objective of the new initiative is to create an open platform allowing for region-wide, multi-stakeholder dialogue and providing a space for sharing experiences, knowledge and best practices on transition-related issues amongst coal regions in the Western Balkans and Ukraine. From there, the aim is to build ties between EU coal regions and their counterparts in the Western Balkans and Ukraine through twinnings, as a way to foster exchange and to transfer knowledge, experience and best practices on transition-related issues.

According to the Commission, a further ambition is to establish a coal academy in order to provide capacity building among relevant stakeholders on transition-related issues, providing dedicated trainings on governance, community engagement, environmental reclamation, and repurposing of land and assets. Selected pilot regions will be provided with access to technical assistance in the form of expert support in order to develop transition roadmaps for relevant public authorities. Finally, the initiative’s partners will help coal regions in the Western Balkans and Ukraine to access financing for transition projects or programmes, based on various available sources, including from the European Commission, the World Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

The secretariat of the initiative for coal regions in transition in the Western Balkans and Ukraine is based in Brussels and run by a consortium with expert knowledge of the situation in all of the participating countries. (New Europe)

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