Bosnian energy project ‘surprises’ EU enlargement chief

(EurActiv, 13 Mar 2019) Bosnia-Herzegovina’s financial and political support for a coal power plant could have far-reaching consequences on the Balkan country’s EU membership prospects, according to one of the bloc’s top officials.

EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn tweeted on Tuesday (12 March) that he was “surprised by the large majority decision” reached by one of Bosnia’s lower houses of parliament on 7 March, which backed funding the expansion of an existing coal plant.

Lawmakers from the Bosniak-Croat federation – one of the two entities set up in Bosnia after the 1992-95 war –  approved a loan guarantee worth €614 million on financing provided by the Exim Bank of China.

The money will be used to build a new 450 MW lignite coal unit at the Tuzla power plant, in the northeast of the country.

But Bosnia’s path towards EU membership means it is a member of the Energy Community, an international organisation composed mainly of candidate countries that works to extend the EU’s internal energy market throughout southeast Europe.

Hahn commented that BiH’s support for Tuzla “raises serious questions not only about BiH’s commitment to international treaties and European rules under the Energy Community Treaty but also about the choice of the energy technology”.

Energy Community members have to stick to the EU’s strict state aid guidelines, one of which stipulates that loan guarantees cannot exceed 80% of the grant’s value. The Bosnian guarantee is set to cover the full amount, plus interest and associated costs.

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EurActiv, 13 Mar 2019: Bosnian energy project ‘surprises’ EU enlargement chief