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Balkan countries and Ukraine are making “substantial investments” in polluting coal power stations to sell cheap electricity to the European Union, as the bloc searches for new suppliers to reduce its dependence on Russian gas.

 Planned coal power plants in south-eastern Europe, @ Bankwatch

EU officials appear reluctant to use energy negotiations next month, or trade law, to force higher air pollution and environmental standards, despite the risks the rush poses to EU climate change and enlargement policies, and to finances and public health in the Balkans.

Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Serbia and Ukraine are planning to build a total of 14.82 GW of new coal power capacity, much of which would be additional to existing capacity, according to a Change Partnership study commissioned by NGO CEE Bankwatch.

The countries are members of the Energy Community, a largely EU-funded drive for binding rules to integrate markets with the EU set up after the Balkans War. Reforms to the Community treaty will be proposed at a June meeting in Vienna, with a view to them being adopted by October.

But campaigners said they had detected little appetite from the European Commission to use the talks to increase air pollution or environmental standards.

“The Commission would need to reflect on possible EU action. This would however still require some analysis to know how such measures would interfere with our policy objectives and international obligations,” a source from the executive told EurActiv.

The Energy Community treaty does not “in principle” allow for import restrictions, the source said, but membership “implies” they have to abide by the same environmental rules as EU power generators.

NGOs including Climate Action Network and the Centre for European Reform said the countries were not subject to all the same rules as the EU.

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