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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 26th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

NGOs warn against use of EU money for environmentally harmful projects.

25.02.2008 – 17:40 CET | By Elitsa Vucheva, for the EUobserver, February 25, 2008.

A number of environmentally controversial projects such as the construction of waste incinerators and motorways that traverse valuable natural areas in Central and Eastern Europe are receiving financing by the EU or have applied to do so, two NGOs have said, who are calling on the EU to stop “wasting” money and look into alternative possibilities.

NGOs Friends of the Earth Europe and CEE Bankwatch Network – an organisation monitoring financial institutions in central and eastern Europe – on Monday (25 February) presented a map detailing 50 projects that they say are “environmentally damaging, economically ineffective, present legal deficiencies and face opposition from the local populations”.

The projects are in member states Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia, Romania and Bulgaria, as well as EU candidates Croatia and Macedonia and have a total cost of €22 billion.

While some have already been approved, the pressure groups are hoping to change the course of the projects still in the pipeline for the 2007-2013 period – the years covering the bloc’s current multi-annual budget.

“We don’t want to block the projects, but to prevent the problems before they have happened,” said Martin Konecny, coordinator for EU funds at Friends of the Earth Europe.

Mr Konecny underlined that the issue was not the EU funding for the countries as such – which is “necessary and welcome”, but the “significant amount of money spent on controversial projects”.

The NGOs say projects include those aimed at promoting the use of waste incinerators rather than recycling; the construction of motorways whose routes may damage “valuable natural areas or residential zones regardless of possible alternative routes” and water management projects that will harm rivers and other natural sites.

They plan to write letters to various EU commissioners, as well as to member states’ national representations in Brussels, to highlight the controversial projects and ask them to consider alternatives.

The most harmful projects outlined by the NGOs include a scheme for building nine waste incinerators in Poland, as well as two expressways – one in Poland and one in the Czech Republic.

For its part, the European Commission declined to comment on the substance of the projects and the criticism expressed by the NGOs.

“We can’t comment in details before seeing what they propose,” a commission spokesperson said.

“But we welcome their interest in what is happening. We want an open discussion, so that EU money can be spent in the best possible way. It is our duty to listen,” she added.

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