The green potential of a third of Europe's budget for 2014-2020 has been hollowed-out following a vote in the European Parliament today, according to Bankwatch and Friends of the Earth Europe. The committee for regional development (REGI) has approved proposals to reform EU Structural Funds – money intended to improve the economic well-being of regions – which include a last-minute shift from legally-binding to voluntary environmental spending.
Markus Trilling, EU Funds coordinator for Bankwatch and Friends of the Earth Europe, commented: "Today's vote has gutted a relatively promising guide for the 2014-2020 spending period, designed to strengthen sustainable, green spending measures. There is now a lot of room for abuse by countries and regions."
"Instead of delivering top-notch projects, investments and green jobs with taxpayers' money, member states can now decide on the scope and relevance of environmental and climate spending within the EU's Cohesion Policy, with little performance-tracking or orientation."
The Cohesion Policy package approved by REGI today includes the possibility of financing gas infrastructure from regional funds that could otherwise have gone to renewables and energy savings projects in Europe.
Markus Trilling continued: "This is a missed opportunity for quality spending. But there is hope: if member states get their act together and think green when it comes to future spending then Cohesion Policy can still create green jobs, save energy and protect the environment, creating the sustainable, resilient economy that Europe needs."