Romania keeps giving state aid to coal even as it holds EU presidency

(EurActiv, 31 Jan 2019) Romania is continuing to prop up its ailing coal sector, blatantly ignoring EU state aid rules, even as the country claims to be defending EU values while holding the rotating presidency of the bloc, writes Alexandru Mustață.

Alexandru Mustață is a campaigner in Romania for CEE Bankwatch, a network of grassroots, environmental groups in Central and Eastern Europe monitoring the activities of international financial institutions.

In Brussels, the main message of the Romanian Council Presidency is that the country has come a long way in the twelve years since it joined the European Union and is a reliable partner today, worthy of this responsibility. The Presidency agenda speaks of an ambitious future.

Listening to this back home, Romanians might smile bitterly. In fact, internal policy-making has hardly improved since Romania joined the EU. The energy sector is a case in point.

Romania is one of Europe’s laggards when it comes to modernising the energy system. Despite the country’s huge potential for renewables, the government insists coal is crucial for meeting energy needs. In the past, Bucharest has ganged up with Warsaw to block stricter pollution standards for coal plants.

Romania’s National Energy Strategy, finalised last year, stands out for its lack of innovation, as the four ’priority, national interest’ projects are giant production capacities (between 500MW and 1.4GW) designed between 1978 and 1985, and a coal unit which is planned since 2012.

The National Energy and Climate Plan (NECP), also drafted in 2018, is equally unambitious, with a small 2030 target for renewables and a continued reliance on coal.

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EurActiv, 31 Jan 2019: Romania keeps giving state aid to coal even as it holds EU presidency