17 Jun 2020

Delivering the European Green Deal for southeast Europe

Do we need a regional approach?

Mihnea Catuti / Irina Kustova / Christian Egenhofer

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Southeast European countries start from a different point in the transition to the European Green Deal. They face systemic challenges both in their energy markets and in implementing the EU’s energy acquis – issues could be addressed through a more regionally focused approach, argue the authors.

This report looks at three countries in the region that have been sometimes seen as reluctant to embrace this transition: Bulgaria, Greece and Romania. The analysis considers the status of their wholesale and retail markets; interconnectivity and market coupling; the independence of national regulatory authorities, and the obstacles to the adopting the energy acquis.

The authors find that six main barriers might prevent more integrated and efficient markets in the region:

  • high dependence on fossil fuels, often supported by policy
  • market concentration and state intervention
  • illiquid markets
  • occasional poor interconnectivity and cross-border energy trade,
  • poor regulatory framework and institutional design, and
  • strategies for managing the transition.

The combination of carbon-intensive energy sectors, relatively low energy efficiency, and below-EU average GDP per capita makes the transformation – of the coal regions, for example – both technically challenging and politically sensitive. The European Green Deal and the ‘just transition’ offer new opportunities for the region (including Covid-19 recovery funds) to develop lower carbon energy systems. But cash injections alone will not be sufficient. This report argues that the region requires additional tailored mechanisms that reflect its specific needs during the transition.