Green Deal for Kosovo - Kosovo B power plant refurbishment

30 January 2020

30 January 2020 - At the launching of the refurbishment project replacing the electrostatic filters of Kosovo B power plant, which constitutes one of the largest capital investments in environmental protection in recent years in Kosovo; Rinora Gojani, representative of Balkan Green Foundation delivered a speech on the stance of the energy and environment in the country in front of high representatives of the EU in Kosovo, Josep Borrel and Natalia Apostolova. The full speech can be read below.

"As a citizen of Kosovo, I take the opportunity to thank the European Union for investing in the Kosovo B power plant. I also thank you for the opportunity to speak today before you as a woman who follows the developments in the energy sector; and as a civil society activist advocating for sustainable policies in harmony with the environment.

It is a pity that in such a high visit from Brussels, and in the inauguration of one of the most influential air quality improvement projects - for the citizens of at least three neighboring municipalities – it finds us without a functional Government, even though more than 100 days have passed since the October elections.

In an ideal world, after the speeches of the European officials on the Green Agreement, we should be hearing from the representatives of the Government that lead the energy and environment sector, or why not even the Prime Minister herself or himself, to talk about measures that they are currently undertaking to bring Kosovo closer to the principles of this Agreement.

However, in reality the air, land, water, and sustainable development have never been policy priorities in Kosovo, despite their impact on citizens' health; in the environment; and the economic and tourist potential of the country. According to the latest World Bank report, 760 people die prematurely as a result of exposure to polluted air annually. The cost of environmental pollution amounts to 300 million euros a year or about 5% of the GDP.

Unfortunately, even in light of these facts, many politicians on every side of the political spectrum, still see the construction of a new coal-based power plant as a solution to Kosovo's energy problem. The thermal power plant, which beyond any environmental and financial logic, according to the agreement signed, favors entirely the private investor to the detriment of the public interest and free competition.

Such a project is harmful, and does not coincide with the European future that Kosovo is aiming for. Balkan Green Foundation, the organization where I work, but also the partner organizations we work with, call on the future Government of Kosovo to withdraw from this contract. We call on the European Union to continue to be an ally with us, even more vocally if necessary, in stopping such a dangerous project for the future and well-being of Kosovo.

Kosovo, a country with a GDP per capita, 9 times smaller than the European average, does not have the luxury of investing disproportionately in the energy sector; continue to lose money for political reasons, and follow the old-style development mentality at the expense of future generations.

As such, Kosovo needs the help of the European Union to put more pressure on Serbia to implement the Energy Agreements reached in the framework of the Technical Dialogue - started 7 years ago. The inability to implement these agreements is damaging Kosovo financially, the integration of the regional energy market, and the rule of law in northern Kosovo.

Resolving this political node would not only unblock the German investment of 75.5 million euros in the transmission line, which is currently not in use, despite the payment of the loan by Kosovo taxpayers; but it would also enable the establishment of a fully compatible market between Kosovo and Albania. Reducing the impact of politics on issues that should be purely technical and economical, would return the hope of many of us in the true potential of the Connectivity Agenda and the possibility of genuine regional cooperation.

I urge the European Union to continue supporting the development of renewable energy sources in Kosovo, and maximizing the energy efficiency potential - an area in which the EU has already made invaluable contributions. Environmental ambitions certainly need to be coupled with technical and financial support to develop new skills to make the transition to a greener economy easier.

Failure to provide clean air constitutes 'a violation of the right to life, health and well-being, as well as the right to live in a healthy environment'. I wish we will become aware of the truth of this statement.

We as a civil society will not stop! We will contribute in drafting the National Energy and Climate Action Plan, we will support the Government on sustainable development policies, and we will be uncompromising critics on aggressive ideas and policies that are detrimental to the environment, and the fundamental right to a dignified and healthy life for every citizen of the Republic of Kosovo."