April 4, 2024
The Western Balkans‘ Pathway to Climate Neutrality 

by Julian-Maximilian Dreyer, GIZ / EUKI

As (potential) EU accession candidates to the European Union, the countries of the Western Balkans Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia agreed on the adherence of EU climate goals, including the obligations under the Paris Agreement.

It is not only within the EU that the level of ambition to reduce greenhouse gas emissions has been raised through the European Green Deal and the Fit for 55 package. Also, in the neighboring countries and (potential) EU accession candidates of the Western Balkans, efforts are being made with vigor to drive progress in addressing climate change. With the “Green Agenda for the Western Balkans (GAWB)” and the adopted GAWB Action Plan, the region has agreed to achieve climate neutrality by 2050 and to align its policies with the core elements of the European Green Deal. 

But political commitment is not enough – the socially just transition accompanying the energy transition requires rigorous, evidence-based planning, a sound governance framework, dialogue, and cross-border collaboration among all involved parties. 

A Networking Event to Discuss Opportunities and Obstacles 

In order to strengthen the dialogue and cooperation between civil society and local and national policy makers from the six Western Balkan countries, Germany, and other neighboring EU Member States, the EUKI Academy will host the Western Balkans EUKI Networking Conference on 25-27 September 2023 in Tirana, Albania. The networking event will focus on the Green Agenda for the Western Balkans (GAWB) and strengthen the EUKI Community on-site. 

The European Climate Initiative (EUKI) of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action (BMWK) contributes to the achievement of the goals of the regional climate partnership by funding civil society projects in the Western Balkans.

The Green Agenda’s Pathway: Options for Action 

The first day of the event will focus on the implementation of the Green Agenda for the Western Balkans (GAWB). The participants will elaborate how EUKI project organisations can effectively engage in GAWB planning, implementation and monitoring, and which target groups and actors are of particular importance in this undertaking. Zana Vokopola, Director of the Urban Research Institute and Rezart Kapedani, expert on the EU Acquis for Chapter 27, will furthermore present how to elaborate initiatives aimed at GAWB implementation. 

This will be followed by the first important step in the implementation of these efforts: the foundation of the Climate Bridges Network. With a Memorandum of Understanding, the EUKI project Climate Bridges plans to lay the foundation for cooperation between Southeast European civil society organisations among themselves and with governmental organisations. In the evening, the participants will be welcomed by several high-ranking guests to a reception with a joint dinner. In addition to Anuela Ristani, Deputy Mayor of Tirana and Hubert Perr, Head of Cooperation at the EU Delegation to Albania, Iven Schad, First Secretary at the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany Tirana, and Matthias Casper, Councellor of the European Climate Policy at the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action (BMWK) will conclude the event by placing the content of the conference in the framework of the regional climate partnership between Germany and the Western Balkans. 

Green Agenda quo vadis

In addition to interactive group sessions, in which the civil society representatives work out problems and approaches to solutions, the program of the main conference day includes an opening session with Dr. Heinz Hetmeier, Deputy Director-General for European Policy at the Federal Ministry of Economy and Climate Policy (BMWK) and Almira Xhembulla, Deputy Minister at theMinistry of Tourism and Environment. The focus will be on how climate and energy policy issues in the region can be strengthened through dialogue between EUKI projects, national policy makers and civil society as well as the EU and EU Member States. This will be followed by a keynote speech by Adam Cwetsch, Head of European Green Deal Unit at the EU Energy Community Secretariat, and two panel discussions. 

During the first panel discussion, representatives of the national ministries from the Western Balkans will have the chance to exchange views on the status quo, previous achievements as well as future challenges in the implementation of the Green Agenda for the Western Balkans. 

Ministers which have already confirmed their participation include Assistant Minister Dusan Čarkić, (Ministry for Environmental Protection), State Secretary Nebi Rexhepi (Ministry of Environment and Physical Planning), Deputy Minister Almira Xhembulla (Ministry of Tourism and Environment), Deputy Minister Avni Zogiani (Ministry of Environment, Spatial Planning and Infrastructure).

In addition, the first panel discussion will offer space to clarify central questions on the topic of good climate governance. These include, for example, exploitable potentials on capacities, responsibilities, and forms of cooperation as well as the role of civil society organisations. 

Finally, in the second panel discussion, civil society representatives from the EUKI Community and representatives from DG NEAR, the EU Delegation Albania and the Energy Community will talk about their contribution to the Green Agenda.  

Throughout the networking event, civil society representatives will not only have the opportunity to ask questions and make comments, but also to address policy makers and EUKI projects with their recommendations and opinions. 

A complete list of invited guests and speakers as well as the program for each day of the event can be found here

Field Trip to one the Balkans Solar Projects 

On the third day of the networking event, there will be a field trip to the Gustav Mayer School in Tirana together with the project Sustainable Urban Transport in Tirana, implemented by the German Development Cooporation (GIZ). This will give all participants the opportunity to learn about the mobility transition in Tirana and hear what has been achieved in regards to decentralized solar energy and sustainable urban development.