The Green Tank’s comments at the 2nd meeting of the Monitoring Committee of the Just Development Transition Program

Ioanna Theodosiou and Nikos Mantzaris from the Green Tank participated in the second annual meeting of the Monitoring Committee held in Ptolemaida, where they had the opportunity to exchange views on the implementation process with members of the Special Service for Just Development of Transition (EYDAM), the European Commission as well as other members of the Monitoring Committee.

Regarding the implementation process of the PDAM during its first year of operation, the Green Tank highlights the first program in Greece financing self-production, renewables-based projects with storage from energy communities formed by municipalities and related bodies in the transition regions amounting to 41.8 million euros. However, we believe that it is necessary to finance similar projects by energy communities from citizens and small and medium-sized enterprises since the interest and needs from both categories are high, especially in Western Macedonia.

Also particularly noteworthy is the financing program for heat pumps as well as self-production systems with storage in Western Macedonia in the amount of 12 million euros. The scale-up of the installation rate of heat pumps is a central objective of the REPowerEU plan to tackle the energy crisis, while the electrification of heating is a fundamental priority for the overall decarbonisation of the building sector. However, the available resources (12 million) are disproportionately small compared to the needs for such systems in Western Macedonia.

In addition, we consider a crucial element for the success of the program the strengthening and the expansion of the consultation process with EYDAM as well as the interaction between the members of the Monitoring Committee on the basis of the specialization issues and the design of the respective calls for proposals. In this context, we would recommend sharing all the comments submitted in each consultation process with the members of the Monitoring Committee, in order to be aware of the concerns and possible different approaches, as well as to encourage dialogue among the members of the Committee.

It would also be very useful if there was interaction between the Monitoring Committee and the Territorial Committees that have started functioning in the transition regions.

The new specialization issues presented and discussed at the Monitoring Committee meeting are intended to finance the following actions:

  1. Innovation zone in Western Macedonia (€ 37.8 million),
  2. Interventions to strengthen the workforce (€ 21.18 million),
  3. Personalized intervention program for unemployed young people (€ 8.34 million),
  4. Special Business Grant Program for the employment of unemployed, former employees in the businesses affected by de-lignification in Western Macedonia and Megalopolis (€10.73 million)
  5. Upgrading and expanding social and welfare services in the Region of Western Macedonia (€ 8 million)
  6. Just Development Transition Portfolio Fund to support both small and medium-sized enterprises (€ 70 million)
  7. Restoration and regeneration works of the Vegoras Mine (€ 30.4 million)
  8. Operation of EFEPAE to support EYDAM in actions concerning state aid (€ 2 million).

Taking into account these specialization issues, the resources of JDTP which have been specialized cumulatively since the beginning of the program’s implementation, amount to € 799 million (49% of the program’s total €1.63 billion). Invitations have been issued for 31.2% of these resources (€ 249.34 million), while those already integrated amount to € 176.2 million (22% of specializations).

We are concerned about the commitment of €30.4 million from the JDTP for the restoration of a 142 hectares mine in Vegora. Despite the fact that the polluter is a bankrupt company and is unable to cover the costs of rehabilitation, this action still violates the fundamental “polluter pays” principle and there is not even a note in the specialization issue on whether the Greek made an effort to ensure compliance with this principle. In addition, no information is provided on the future uses of the land after the restoration is complete. Finally, it is underlined that while the specific restoration of 142 hectares requires 30.4 million (i.e. 214.1 thousand euros/hectrare) from JDTP, for the restoration of 4500-6500 hectares in the Ptolemaidas mines the plan -according to the relevant Environmental Impact Assessment – is to allocate approximately 82.4 million .euro (i.e. 12.6-18.3 thousand euros/hectare) from the Recovery and Resilience Fund. The different scale of required resources per hectare for these restorations raises reasonable questions about the adequacy of the resources available to restore the total areas in the main mines of Western Macedonia and Megalopolis.

The first targeted action for the youth in transition regions in the amount of 8.34 million euros, which will finance personalized intervention programs for unemployed young people which will include diagnosis, professional counseling and social empowerment actions, is positively evaluated. However, the young people benefiting from the program will be 600 (432 in Western Macedonia and 168 in the Peloponnese), while according to the data of GSEVE -which are also referred in the specialization issue-, the “young people who are not employed, educated or trained” (NEETs) are estimated to be approximately 12,000 in Western Macedonia alone. In fact, according to data from Eurostat that were analyzed by the Green Tank, Western Macedonia is far above the average of the 96 carbon regions of EU-27 in terms of the number of NEETs. Therefore, additional resources are required for this type of support for young people, but also for the establishment of a special youth fund which will financially support the formulation and implementation of young people’s business plans, in order to address more effectively the explosive problem of youth unemployment which constitutes one of the biggest threats for the future of Greece’s lignite regions.

Also, the formulation of a €70 million financial tool to support SMEs is mainly in a positive direction and can contribute substantially to enhancing their participation in the calls of the PDAM 2021-2027. The possibility to formulate financial tools under the Programme as highlighted by the establishment of the Just Transition GR FoF (Risk Financing Loans and Guarantee Fund) can also be used in other areas, and in particular, as mentioned above, to formulate a dedicated youth fund to support youth entrepreneurship projects in the TJTP regions.

Finally, regarding the upgrading and expansion of Social and Welfare Services in the Region of Western Macedonia, the forecast for the evening operation of the structures is in the right direction, as it will contribute to the better implementation of the programs. However, the action does not seem to introduce anything new as a structure, practice, or approach to address the problems of vulnerable groups that are especially intensified by the lignite phase out. Also, it is not clear if the target groups will be exclusively the beneficiaries of the Social Solidarity Income, i.e. if the program is aimed exclusively at those who are already on the spectrum of poverty and exclusion. We think that if this is the case, it may significantly limit the participation and the actual implementation of the program and we suggest that this action should set broader criteria, so as to include groups of citizens who are in a very difficult situation as a result of the lignite phase out.