[PRESENTATION PA CONF. SEPT. 2023] Overview of the Western Balkans Region on its Pathway to Implement the Green Agenda

Miroslav Vesković and Đorđe Đatkov from the University of Novi Sad guide us through the Western Balkans’ journey toward implementing the Green Agenda, an essential step in aligning with the European Green Deal (EGD) and its vision of a climate-neutral and resource-efficient economy.

The Green Agenda and the Sofia Declaration

In October 2020, leaders in the Western Balkans region signed the Sofia Declaration on the Green Agenda for the Western Balkans (GAWB). This marked a significant milestone, acknowledging the importance of the European Green Deal (EGD) – the European Union’s ambitious strategy for achieving sustainability and competitiveness in the modern world.

Challenges in Implementing the Green Agenda

The journey toward implementing the Green Agenda in the Western Balkans is not without its challenges:

1. Governance: Weak governance capacities within the public administration of the Western Balkans pose a significant hurdle. The region must enhance its administrative capabilities to drive sustainability initiatives effectively.

2. Financial Constraints: The limited capacity of public budgets in the Western Balkans raises questions about the feasibility of co-financing costly projects. The financial constraints need to be addressed to move forward effectively.

3. Conflicting Objectives: While the Green Agenda emphasizes renewable energy, some proposed projects related to hydropower plants have not sufficiently considered the environmental impacts they may cause. Balancing energy generation with environmental preservation is crucial.

4. Industrial Policies: Enterprises, especially in the private sector, require incentives and technical support to transition to renewable resources, adopt environmentally friendly norms, and invest in workforce training and skills development.

5. Regional Cooperation: Effective regional integration of electricity markets is hampered by reluctance among governments to share control in a politically sensitive sector and opposition from vested interests determined to maintain the status quo. Overcoming these obstacles is essential for a unified and sustainable approach.

6. Raising Awareness and Education: Elevating awareness about climate, energy, and the environment is fundamental, both among the general population and at the policy level. Education and public engagement are pivotal in driving the adoption of green policies and practices.

The Path Forward

As the Western Balkans navigate these challenges on their path to implementing the Green Agenda, a concerted effort is required. By addressing issues related to governance, finances, conflicting objectives, and industry transformation, the region can unlock its full green potential.

Moreover, fostering regional cooperation and raising awareness about sustainability is crucial for building a prosperous and eco-conscious future. The Western Balkans’ commitment to the Green Agenda demonstrates a dedication to environmental stewardship and economic resilience, aligning with the broader vision of the European Green Deal.

As this journey unfolds, the Western Balkans stand poised to become a beacon of sustainability and green growth in the heart of Europe, contributing to a more environmentally responsible and climate-conscious future.