Várhelyi: EC – Serbia dialogue focuses on environment, climate

Source: Olivier Hoslet/POOL/AFP

The importance of the environment and climate preservation are in the focus on the political dialogue between Serbia and the European Commission (EC), Olivér Várhelyi, the European Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood, has said on Wednesday.

„That includes the solving of transboundary river pollution and environmental concerns caused by investments,“ he said, answering a question by Ioan-Rareş Bogdan, a member of the largest European Parliament (EP) group, the European People’s People’s Party (EPP).

Bogdan drew attention to the situation in the region, particularly to Serbia’s eastern town of Bor, „where the Chinese investor Zijin Mining and Smelting Combine, was causing an ecological catastrophe.“ He added those activities „severely affect“ the Romanian minority in the region, which „complained of being exposed to pressure and frequent threats and is considering leaving the region.“

He asked the question back in April, demanding the EC to specify the steps it would take to prevent the environmental catastrophe in the Bor region. He said „the levels of sulfur dioxide, arsenic and cadmium emissions are far above the maximum of allowed values“ and where“ contamination of local rivers eventually leads to pollution of the Danube River.“

Várhelyi said the EU provided full support to harmonising Serbia’s legislation on the environment and climate, including financial assistance with the EU. He added the bloc was focused on capacity building, investments in environmental infrastructure, and civil society’s action.

„In the latest EC report on Serbia from October 2020, concrete recommendations addressing shortcomings in the areas of environmental impact assessment, water management, waste management and air pollution were formulated. The Commission focuses on strengthening the judiciary and the inspection for environmental protection in the country, and establishing the records on implementing the Directive on Environmental Crime,“ Várhelyi said in his answer.

Serbia’s environmental activists, unions and the local population have been warning the authorities that the Chinese company disrespected the rules for protecting the environment for some time.

Also, people from western Serbia protest over the Rio Tinto plans to dig a lithium mine and jeopardise the environment.

However, Serbia’s authorities are reluctant in forcing the polluters to follow the rules on the protection of the environment but promised a referendum on the Rio Tinto job in the country.

Environmental issues additionally burden Belgrade in its declared efforts to join the European Union. besides the normalisation of relations with Pristina, the poor state of the rule of law and media freedom and the fight against organised crime and corruption