Violation of environmental legislation is a big issue in many Balkan states and challenging such breaches has proven to be a promising opportunity for civil society organizations to protect Balkan rivers from hydropower development. In response to growing public opposition against destructive small hydropower in the region and an increasing number of complaints to the Energy Community Secretariat the Energy Community Secretariat has now published special policy guidelines on small hydropower projects.
The document provides legal guidance on mandatory environmental assessments for new hydropower projects to investors, competent national authorities and the general public in the member states of the Energy Community. The aim of these guidelines is to prevent or minimize negative impacts on the environment. They also state that environmentally harmful subsidies are to be phased out.
Partners in the Blue Heart campaign have commented on the draft document during a public consultation.
Furthermore, the Energy Community Secretariat has officially opened a dispute settlement procedure against Albania on September 14, 2020, on the basis of breaching the EU Directive on Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA) when awarding a contract in 2016 for the construction of the Poçem hydropower project on river Vjosa. In this welcome step, the Secretariat has acted on our complaint submitted in 2019.