Monday

27th Mar 2017

EU funds spent on 'environmentally harmful' projects

  • Waste recycling is still a utopian fantasy in Bulgaria (Photo: European Commission)

Waste incinerators instead of recycling, highways running through nature parks, airports in protected areas - 33 projects in central and eastern Europe funded with €16 billion out of the EU's regional policy coffers are "environmentally harmful", says a study published on Thursday (2 February) by Friends of the Earth Europe and Bankwatch, a coalition of environmental NGOs.

"These 33 projects are economically dubious, socially harmful and in breach of environmental law," Markus Trilling from Friends of the Earth Europe said during a press briefing.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

He noted that while EU leaders are in the "hot phase" of negotiating the next EU budget for 2014-2020, current spending practices need to be altered if Europe is serious about its climate change and environmental targets.

Cohesion policy - the EU term for the €347 billion allocated in 2007 to 2013 mainly to Europe's former Communist countries to revamp schools, roads and other infrastructure - has to follow broad EU outlines for sustainable or environmental-friendly targets. But it is ultimately up to national governments to approve the individual projects.

"What we have found is that they are funding unsustainable, unmodern investments. Decision makers have not learnt from the past experience of Spain, Portugal, Greece - once the biggest recipients of structural funds - where money was used to fuel housing bubbles and to construct highways instead of a more balanced approach, such as more public transportation, railways, investments in energy efficiency," Trilling said.

In Bulgaria, the EU's poorest member, waste management is still far away from any recycling practices seen in the western countries, said Genady Kondarev from Bankwatch.

A project worth €184 million pending EU approval aims at incinerating all waste collected in the Bulgarian capital, Sofia, which is currently being transported and piled up in large landfills outside the city. "Almost 100 percent of the waste is landfilled. Only a marginal 1.9-2.5 percent is being recycled, mainly by Roma going through the garbage and selling some of the recycled materials," Kondarev said.

If the project is approved, the timid government effort to get people to sort rubbish will be even less effective, he argued. "Already people are very sceptical about the different coloured bins, since they see that they all go in the same garbage vans. With an incinerator, there will be no incentives for recycling," he explained.

Other projects, such as the Salgotarjan biomass power plant in Hungary, may look environmentally friendly, but risks creating a perverse effect.

"Because of its reliance on waste wood from forestry and chopped logs, logging would increase pressure on surrounding forests, where not enough wood is produced annually to fuel a power plant with even 20 percent less capacity. Also the plant would be constructed in a populated area, so air pollution and low-particulate dust is of major concern," the study says.

Franco-German 'growth' plan looks to EU funds and taxes

A six-point plan drafted by France and Germany suggests corporate tax 'co-ordination', an EU financial transactions tax and the re-deployment of EU funds in troubled countries as ways to spur growth and jobs.

Opinion

Prosperity for many or misery for all?

This week world leaders will gather in Brazil for the Rio +20 Summit to decide what kind of future we want, writes Janez Potočnik.

Analysis

EU transport sector has a CO2 problem

Although car manufacturers are reaching their CO2 targets for their fleets, car usage has gone up in Germany, while the gap between lab results and actual fuel consumption has increased.

Column / Crude World

Nord Stream 2: The elephant in the room

The European Commission should provide a thorough impact assessment of Nord Stream 2, a project that appears to go against all of its Energy Union objectives.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Belgrade Security ForumCall for Papers: European Union as a Global Crisis Manager - Deadline 30 April
  2. European Gaming & Betting Association60 Years Rome Treaty – 60 Years Building an Internal Market
  3. Malta EU 2017New EU Rules to Prevent Terrorism and Give More Rights to Victims Approved
  4. European Jewish Congress"Extremists Still Have Ability and Motivation to Murder in Europe" Says EJC President
  5. European Gaming & Betting AssociationAudiovisual Media Services Directive to Exclude Minors from Gambling Ads
  6. ILGA-EuropeTime for a Reality Check on International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
  7. UNICEFHuman Cost to Refugee and Migrant Children Mounts Up One Year After EU-Turkey Deal
  8. Malta EU 2017Council Adopts New Rules to Improve Safety of Medical Devices
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Energy Research: How to Reach 100 Percent Renewable Energy
  10. Party of European SocialistsWe Must Renew Europe for All Europeans
  11. MEP Tomáš ZdechovskýThe European Commission Has Failed in Its Fight Against Food Waste
  12. ILGA-EuropeEP Recognises Discrimination Faced by Trans & Intersex People