Sunday

22nd Apr 2018

Opinion

Parliament: do not let Poland hijack green agenda

  • Regional funds should not support fossil fuel projects (Photo: AdamCohn)

Warsaw's latest battle against efforts to 'green' Europe's economy is being played out in the European Parliament's regional affairs committee. Polish-designed technical texts could kill the environment-friendly criteria attached to the next €1 trillion EU budget.

Two weeks ago, Jan Olbrycht, a Polish centre-right MEP who drafts the parliament's position on the rules for the European Regional Development Fund submitted an opinion in which he explicitly asks for oil and gas transmission and storage projects to be financed from funds to be dedicated to low-carbon measures in the next Cohesion Policy.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

Why is this important?

First of all, because Olbrycht's opinion matters a great deal. As the rapporteur, his voice will be listened to by his committee.

In turn, the decision made by this committee on the shape of the next Cohesion Policy will be effectively the position of the European Parliament in its negotiations with the EU Council (member states) over regional funds. Especially since Olbrycht is personally leading on talks with the Council on this topic.

Secondly, because the Council positions on pro-environmental measures are often so retrograde that they need a counter-weight from the more progressive parliament. But, after hijacking the European 2050 low-carbon roadmap in the European Council on 24 April, Poland seems set to co-opt the parliament as well in its pro-fossil-fuels game.

Finally, beyond the political shenanigans, there is the shape the next Cohesion Policy is taking.

In October last year, the European Commission proposed regulations to guide the next Cohesion Policy (2014-2020) which called for this financial instrument to serve the EU 2020 goals, including decarbonising the European economy.

The commission also proposed "ring-fencing" - that is, reserving fixed minimum percentages of the available funding (20% for the EU’s richer regions and a particularly modest 6% for the poorest) for low-carbon measures.

Since then, both the parliament and Council have unfortunately started diluting many of the commission's progressive proposals. While the 6 percent low-carbon investment threshold for poorest regions will actually be raised to 10 percent, this is the only good news and, even there, the devil is in the details.

The 'ring-fenced' low-carbon spending area has in the meantime been expanded to include new things – most notably, investments supporting clean urban transport.

Those are of course welcome investments, encouraging a modal shift away from the private car, but they should be done with transport funds and not compete for money with projects supporting renewables or energy efficiency.

It is in fact much easier in practice to spend big money on urban transport than on other low-carbon priorities: for example, the construction of one section of the metro line in Warsaw is set to receive around €700 million from the 2007-2013 cohesion pot, more than the entire seven-year allocation of EU funds for renewables (€663 million) or energy efficiency (€443 million) for Poland.

This is not all.

Time and again, new items pop up to crowd out real low-carbon measures from the sums of money 'ring-fenced' for this purpose.

The Council has been promoting financing high efficiency co-generation of heat and power (read: possibly coal-fired even) from these funds. Plus, this same money could end up supporting efficiency improvements at big polluters which should anyway be investing in those measures as a result of the incentive system under the EU emissions trading system.

On top of that comes Olbrycht's proposal to add oil and gas infrastructure as eligible for those low-carbon funds.

It is truly a pity that, in an already difficult political context, the institution which should act on behalf of European society is steering the new Cohesion Policy in directions driven by industrial lobbying and national political agendas. But there is still time to change that: the REGI committee decision is not until 9 July.

Markus Trilling is EU Funds coordinator at CEE Bankwatch Network, an umbrella organisation for NGOs looking at how regional funds are spent.

Poland to veto EU low carbon plan

Polish environment minister Marcin Korolec has said he will veto an EU proposal for CO2 cuts at a meeting in Brussels on Friday.

More commitment to renewables from Council, please

More and more consumers are likely to invest in solar panels in the future as it becomes simpler to produce one's own electricity, writes Monique Goyens, director general of BEUC, the European Consumer Organisation.

EU should ensure sustainable Cohesion Policy

As the EU Council kicks off negotiations over the post-2020 budget, ministers have have an opportunity to create a framework that will unlock innovative financing and scale up the citizen-led clean energy transformation

How to reset EU-Burma relations

Europe should go back to its pre-2012 policy, wipe away aid and trade benefits, and tie democratic efforts to the reinstatement of benefits.

How to reset EU-Burma relations

Europe should go back to its pre-2012 policy, wipe away aid and trade benefits, and tie democratic efforts to the reinstatement of benefits.

News in Brief

  1. Audit office: Brexit 'divorce' bill could be billions higher
  2. MEPs urge better protection for journalists
  3. Dieselgate: MEPs back greater role for EU in car approvals
  4. European parliament adopts new organic farming rules
  5. EU granted protection to half million people in 2017
  6. Report: Facebook to carve 1.5bn users out of EU privacy law
  7. Greek court ruling permits migrants to travel to mainland
  8. Commonwealth summit hopes for trade boost after Brexit

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersWorld's Energy Ministers to Meet in Oresund in May to Discuss Green Energy
  2. ILGA EuropeParabéns! Portugal Votes to Respect the Rights of Trans and Intersex People
  3. Mission of China to the EUJobs, Energy, Steel: Government Work Report Sets China's Targets
  4. Martens CentreJoin Us at NET@WORK2018 Featuring Debates on Migration, Foreign Policy, Populism & Disinformation
  5. European Jewish CongressKantor Center Annual Report on Antisemitism Worldwide - The Year the Mask Came Off
  6. UNICEFCalls for the Protection of Children in the Gaza Strip
  7. Mission of China to the EUForeign Minister Wang Yi Highlights Importance of China-EU Relations
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersImmigration and Integration in the Nordic Region - Getting the Facts Straight
  9. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMacedonians in Bulgaria Demand to End the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  10. Counter BalanceThe EIB Needs to Lead by Example on Tax Justice
  11. ILGA EuropeTrans People in Sweden to be Paid Compensation for Forced Sterilisation
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsThe Danger of Standing Up for Justice and Rights in Central Asia

Latest News

  1. ECJ ruling set to end 10-year 'mouth tobacco' lobbying saga
  2. Whistleblowers, Syria and digital revolution This WEEK
  3. MEP friendship groups offer 'backdoor' for pariah regimes
  4. Macron and Merkel pledge euro reform
  5. Obscurity surrounds EU military fund's expert groups
  6. New EU party finance rules short circuit accountability
  7. Draghi to stay in secretive 'lobby' group
  8. Bulgaria offers lesson in tackling radical-right populists

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Must Work Together to Promote Global Steel Sector
  2. Swedish EnterprisesEU Tax Proposal on Digital Services Causes Concern for Small Exporting Economies
  3. Europea Jewish CongressCondemns the Horrific Murder of Holocaust Survivor Mireille Knoll in Paris
  4. Mission of China to the EUAn Open China Will Foster a World-Class Business Environment
  5. ECR GroupAn Opportunity to Help Shape a Better Future for Europe
  6. Counter BalanceControversial Turkish Azerbaijani Gas Pipeline Gets Major EU Loan
  7. World VisionSyria’s Children ‘At Risk of Never Fully Recovering', New Study Finds
  8. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMeets with US Congress Member to Denounce Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  9. Martens CentreEuropean Defence Union: Time to Aim High?
  10. UNESDAWatch UNESDA’s President Toast Its 60th Anniversary Year
  11. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Condemns MEP Ana Gomes’s Anti-Semitic Remark, Calls for Disciplinary Action
  12. EPSUEU Commissioners Deny 9.8 Million Workers Legal Minimum Standards on Information Rights