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INFORSE-Europe Position on Structural Funds (2004)

December 2004

Structural funds (SF) are the European Union's basic instruments for supporting social and economic development in EU member states. They are used to finance multi-annual programmes and they act on economic and social structures with the aim to develop infrastructure, such as transport and energy or disseminate the tools and know-how. Recently they account for over a third of the European Union budget. All initiatives under this scheme must respect the environment and thus SF seems to be one of the most promising sources of funds for renewable energy projects in several regions of enlarged EU. Especially for new member states this opportunity could help to overcome the lack of funds which is obviously the main barrier for the development of renewables there. There are 30 billion EUR allocated for the new member states until the year 2006. The renewable energy projects realised on local level could be one of the best options how to effectively used part of the funds. Utilisation of SF for the renewables is also supported by the EC as it was presented during Renewables 2004 conference in Bonn.

Despite the fact that there are several administrative hurdles to be overcome by the applicant (mainly the lack of information and experience) the door for financing of renewables is open in many EU member states. The programming documents as the basic national document dealing with SF contain the information on how to use SF and who is eligible for them. Implementation is decentralised, which means that it is usually the responsibility of the national and regional authorities how SF will be used. It is worth to note that SF are aimed mainly for communities and governmental institutions but in several cases they can be used by the NGOs as well. NGOs as can play an important role especially in establishing information centers on renewable energy utilisation which are usually missing in many new member states. NGOs could also participate as a partner in developing the projects or even as the recipient of funds. This involvement of local experience and knowledge of renewables is highly needed and could be of great importance for community leaders or other potential project developers.

EU policy on SF is the subject undergoing regular changes with the next one setting the basic criteria for the period starting from 2007. This is an opportunity for NGOs to influence national governments towards putting more emphasis on renewables in their position papers. INFORSE is strongly supporting the idea that SF will be used for the renewable energy projects on broader scale. Nevertheless we are aware of the fact that development of such projects is a difficult task and usually they can hardly compete with large scale projects like building highways or other big infrastructural schemes. We ask the governments of member states to put more emphasis on this issue. We also urge NGOs involved in renewables to be more active in lobbying governments and taking part in decision making process towards more transparency during evaluation process and providing funds for the projects. We also ask European Commission to put more emphasis on renewables in the next programming phase and making pressure on member states with the aim to strengthen the role of NGOs in evaluation process (involving NGOs in national committees etc.) and making the whole process more transparent.

INFORSE-Europe/Emil Bedi, December 2004 Download Position: (23 kB word doc)

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