- By Chris Kremidas Courtney
Are recent developments and post-COVID recovery plans offering added impetus to efforts to push for a green – and just – transition in the Western Balkans? The current state of play and ideas for moving the green agenda forwards were discussed on day two of the 2020 summit, which again included a sizeable youth delegation brought by UNICEF and Debating Europe.
Taking the green agenda seriously?
- 42:20 “As a country we’re firmly committed to the green agenda and a greener recovery.” [Besian Mustafa]
- 50:51 “Bosnia and Herzegovina has repeatedly pointed out its positive attitude regarding the Green Agenda for the Western Balkans.” [Ljiljana Lovrić]
- 8:39 “Decarbonisation of the energy sector is one of the top priorities… We’ve provided policy advice to governments of Serbia, Montenegro, Albania and Kosovo*, to help them introduce renewable energy; we financed two big wind farms in Serbia, one in Montenegro, and two in Kosovo* that when they are completed will account for 10% of the country’s electricity use.” [Charlotte Ruhe]
Recovery plan: opportunities from the Covid crisis
- 41:29 “It’s great to see all of us in the region and beyond cooperating in these dire times… [COVID-19] has forced all of us to acknowledge that our societies are adapting to a new normal… and we’re working hard to steer this transition towards a more digital and greener future.” /
- 46:17 “Let us make this pandemic an unprecedented opportunity to bring this region forward in leaps and bounds.” [Besian Mustafa]
- 1:16:16 “COVID-19… is a crisis, but a crisis can be a chance. So we have to take opportunities from the chance, and make the best of it for all of us…” [Ljiljana Lovrić]
Can green agenda boost cooperation and EU integration?
- 7:54 The region does, and will, receive “special attention” from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (ERBD) – business is growing and evolving in a way that’s “very much aligned with the region’s aspiration for EU membership and with the new Green Agenda for the Western Balkans”. [Charlotte Ruhe]
- 18:08 “We are small countries, but with big problems… [and] small budgets. But we have a big opportunity – we are sharing almost one third of flora and fauna of all Europe and we have all of the same environmental problems…. the environment has no borders.” / 1908 “It is the moment now for all Balkan countries to create our own expertise about climate change and increase our own local capacities… in Albania, we, we don’t have a single bachelor or master’s degree for climate change.” [Ornela Çuçi]
- 51:48 “If there is no timely activity of our economic operators regarding [the green agenda], it will prevent their integration into EU market, as well as the global world market.” [Ljiljana Lovrić]
A ‘people agenda’: no one left behind
Interventions from the youth delegation brought by UNICEF and Debating Europe were particularly focused on ensuring a “bottom-up” approach to the green agenda and recovery plans.
- 28:36 “We’ve seen that also COVID has increased the inequality… how is the policy taking into consideration that the green agenda has to be inclusive, and that we’re not leaving anyone behind?… how do we ensure that also the civil society is included in the decision-making?” [Marina Navarro Montilla, youth delegate]
- 33:59 “Is a Green Deal framework coming only from institutions going to solve these issues? The green agenda is a very ambitious plan for Europe as a continent and needs to bring only good and justice for all, not only European citizens – therefore it should be made together with people from all diverse communities.” [Ena Utevska, UNICEF youth delegate]
- 52:50 In the short term, measures to achieve decarbonisation will have costs, and it’s “crucial to take this into account and to handle the distribution consequences of the different measures carefully as only a fair distribution of costs can guarantee the political and social sustainability”. [Ljiljana Lovrić]
- 57:30 “Before we want to have green economies, we should create a green mentality”, for example by investing in early childhood education and internships for young people with a green component. [Trina Hoti, UNICEF youth delegate]
*For the United Nations, references to Kosovo shall be understood to be in the context of Security Council resolution 1244 (1999)
- By Jane Burston
- By Nona Zicherman
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