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The EU enlargement is a complex process that requires both the willingness of actual member states to open negotiations and the readiness of newcomers. This is the case for the latest group of countries that have been the subjects of the 2023 Enlargement Package adopted by the European Commission: Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Energy is one of the topics on the agenda when it comes to the negotiations between Brussels and the national governments of those countries, not only for the reform requested by the EU Commission but also in terms of financial aid provided to the States.
In the Western Balkans, the European Union promoted a clean energy transition, and “connectivity flagship projects” focused on investment in renewable energy sources, the so-called energy efficiency “renovation wave,” and facilitating the transition from coal while also supporting energy security and diversification of supply. In October 2022, the Commission announced a EUR 1 billion Energy Support Package for the region of the Balkans. The Western Balkans Investment Framework (WBIF) Operational Board has so far adopted 18 investment projects focusing on the construction of solar and photovoltaic power plants in Albania, Kosovo, and North Macedonia; windfarms in Serbia; rehabilitation of hydropower plants in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, North Macedonia, and Serbia; an electricity transmission network like the Trans-Balkan electricity corridor; and energy efficiency.
The EU is also supporting and provisioning investments in gas interconnectors as a way to ensure better diversification of energy sources, a matter that has undeniably had a huge impact on both Ukraine and Moldova, two countries exposed to the “energy trap” created by the Kremlin in the last decades. In the 2023 Communication on EU Enlargement Policy, issued on 8th November, the European Commission encourages all enlargement countries to be “more ambitious” and strengthen “their coordinated action on the green transition, especially by prioritising the mainstreaming of the European Green Deal in all policy areas”.
Written by: Francesco Marino