Brussels - 20 June 2023
EU Member States are exacerbating economic inequality, eroding democracy and obstructing efforts to create a green, transformative European economy by marginalising citizens in decision-making, a new report by the Citizens’ Observatory for Green Deal Financing reveals (20 June).
The report,No recovery without citizens: Why public involvement is key to Europe's green transformation, shows how excluding the public has opened the door for investments which harm the climate, further drive biodiversity loss and neglect crucial public services like healthcare and education across Europe. It analyses investments in Bulgaria, Estonia, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Poland and Spain made with the EU recovery fund. The report also examines the role of the InvestEU and REPowerEU programmes, as well as the European Investment Bank (EIB). These investments are theoretically supposed to help Europe bounce back from the COVID-19 pandemic and transform economies towards a greener and more resilient future, but they were planned without citizen involvement.
Daniel Thomson, EU Policy Officer for Biodiversity at CEE Bankwatch Network said:
‘The publics’ needs and interests must be the key priority when designing and implementing public funds. This can only be done by better engaging with citizens and allowing their full involvement in the process. Unfortunately, this has not been the case for the EU’s recovery, allowing investments which do not reflect the true priorities of citizens and wasting precious public money.’
This situation would not have occurred if citizens had been adequately consulted on how to use the billions of euros made available. One of the consequences of the lack of civil participation is a large portion of recovery funds in some countries (as well as those from InvestEU and EIB investments) going to corporations still extracting and burning fossil fuels while making huge profits.
Frank Vanaerschot, Director at Counter Balance said:
‘We’re in the middle of a cost of living and climate crisis. Spending public money on big polluters with a lot of profits is undemocratic and counterproductive. We as citizens have the right to define which investments we need, to make sure we can all access affordable energy, housing and transport within environmental limits.’
The report exposes how investments in flood management, renewable energy, transport and other sectors made with recovery funds are being misused. The new breakwater in Genoa, Italy is one example. The breakwater will increase air pollution by sparking more traffic from huge ships and road vehicles and endanger dolphins, whales, seals and turtles inhabiting the area. There is also no guarantee of increased employment in Genoa, despite the cost to the public purse potentially reaching over EUR 1.3 billion.
Eva Pastorelli, campaigner at Italian NGO ReCommon said:
‘Citizens are not being properly consulted on choices that will affect their future. New Italian legislation on projects financed by recovery funds has blocked citizens from having an adequate say on investments such as the Genoa breakwater, under the guise of speeding up the process to meet investment deadlines. As the botched environmental assessment in Genoa shows, there is a real danger that profits for the few could prevail over the well-being of citizens and the ecosystem.’
Citizens and civil society organisations can help identify and align investments with the actual needs of their societies and economies if they can meaningfully participate in decision-making on how EU recovery funds are spent. To do this, the European Commission, the EIB and EU Member States should improve transparency around investments, strengthen the role which civil society organisations play in monitoring national plans and improve citizen participation rather than allowing private companies to define investment plans.
For more information, please contact:
Daniel Thomson, EU Policy Officer for Biodiversity, CEE Bankwatch Network, firstname.lastname@example.org, +32 (0)2 893 08 61
Frank Vanaerschot, Director, Counter Balance, email@example.com, +32 (0) 487 67 16 27
Eva Pastorelli, Campaigner, ReCommon, firstname.lastname@example.org, +39 320 666 34 37
Notes to editors
- A series of videos explaining problematic uses of recovery financing are available on the Citizens’ Observatory for Green Deal Financing website here.
- The report analyses funding available through the EUR 806 billion NextGenerationEU recovery fund package, which includes the Recovery and Resilience Facility, the additional EUR 20 billion of new REPowerEU grants, the InvestEU facility and the EIB’s energy lending.
- The Citizens’ Observatory for Green Deal Financing is a coalition of civil society organisations from across Europe advocating at EU and national levels for more transparency and a just distribution of EU funds.