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Environmentalists Want EU Bank Stop Greece-North Macedonia Pipeline

Environmental groups called on the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) to withdraw a planned loan for a Greece-North Macedonia gas pipeline, insisting it will create more pollution.

The Prague-based CEE Bankwatch Network and North Macedonia’s Eko-svest said the project contravenes European Union and national laws and the bank’s environmental and social party, reported Balkan Insight.

https://balkaninsight.com/2024/03/25/ebrd-urged-to-reconsider-funding-greece-north-macedonia-gas-pipeline/

The pipeline is designed to carry another 1.5 billion cubic meters of gas a year into North Macedonia, three times its’ 2021 consumption, “massively increasing its dependence on fossil fuel imports,” the groups said.

They said the environmental impact of greenhouse emissions from burning more gas was not assessed in the environmental impact assessment for the project, nor was a mandatory public consultation held in North Macedonia.

“Instead of insisting on meaningful public consultation, the EBRD has turned a blind eye. A European bank must insist on EU standards – which are anyway mandatory for a candidate country like ours,” said Eko-svest chief Ana Colovic.

The Greek gas network operator DESFA and its counterpart from North Macedonia, NOMAGAS, signed a deal in September 2023, after both governments previously reached a bilateral agreement to build it.

A loan for the project has been approved already by the European Investment Bank, as well as a grant from the EU’s Western Balkans Investment Framework, but the site said most people in North Macedonia weren’t aware.

The EBRD loan of up to 98.6 million euros ($107.06) would be used to build the 66-kilometer (41-mile) pipeline, plus two gas transmission lines inside North Macedonia for distribution.

The EBRD said this would help North Macedonia’s “accelerated transition away from coal and towards renewable energy by decommissioning existing coal fired Thermal Power Plants (TPPs) by 2030”.

The new gas pipeline from Greece is planned to also be 100-percent ready to transfer hydrogen in future, as a presumably more ecological energy source than natural gas, the news site said.

The environmentalists didn’t accept the bank’s argument. “The EU and its banks must stop applying double standards. At home they understand the need to phase out gas, but they have no problem with helping the Western Balkans get addicted to this pricey imported fossil fuel – and pretending it has next to no emissions,” said Pippa Gallop, Southeast Europe Energy Policy Officer at CEE Bankwatch Network.

“The EU must stop acting as a broker for the gas industry and push for a rapid phase-out;, pushing one eco policies for European Union and others for North Macedonia and the Balkans,” Gallop added.

North Macedonia’s government said the line would cut ts dependency on Russian gas, since the gas from Greece would arrive through the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline, TAP, and LMG terminals in Greece.

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