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|INFORSE-Europe Opinion on Structural Funds (2005)|
Opinion, December, 2005
Structural funds are by far the biggest
means of distributing EU funds towards less developed EU regions. Approximately
30 billion EUR are
available for the new EU member states during the period of 2004-2006.
Unfortunately, only a tiny part of this sum is used for renewable energy
(RE) projects. The importance of RE in EU energy and environmental
policy has been declared frequently in major EU documents such as the
Communication on Renewable Energy from May 2004, climate-change-related
documents, statements of the European Parliament, etc. Nevertheless,
the opportunity to redirect energy development from dirty fossil fuels
towards clean and sustainable RE has not been taken in the majority
of EU member states. This must change; EU's actions need to honor the
The new structural fund (SF) period 2007-2013 will be a crucial time in which to secure adequate funding for sustainable-energy projects. Almost one third of the EU budget, or 336 billion EUR (0,41 % of EU GDP), will be allocated to SF in these years. Six years is too long a time to lose in the critical, difficult effort to establish a solid base for sustainable-energy development. If the EU wants to meet its environmental goals — or even its economic and social targets — renewable energies and energy efficiency should be treated preferentially.
Unfortunately, this cannot happen without clear declaration of willingness in programming documents prepared at the national level. Therefore it is absolutely crucial that the government officials responsible for the preparation of national SF programming documents include RE and energy efficiency (EE) in all priorities and aims of the documents. RE projects should be eligible for funding through the wide spectrum of operational programmes.
It is also important that the governments include NGOs in evaluation committees so that the whole process of fund allocation and project evaluation can be more transparent. If, in addition, the NGOs become eligible for funding, they could also play an important role in information dissemination and in providing various types of support for the local authorities and municipalities. This has been successfully demonstrated in Wales by several local and national NGOs. It could be repeated in SF throughout the EU, not least in the new member countries.
Emil Bedi and Gunnar Boye Olesen
Opinion on Structural Funds (2004 December)