Greenpeace: Gov’t violates European regulations with the grant to CE Oltenia

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Bogdan Tudorache

Romanian Government’s decision to grant a grant of 241 million euros to the Oltenia Energy Complex violates European provisions, according to Greenpeace and two other environmental organizations, which have addressed the European Commissioner for Competition.

On March 31, by Emergency Ordinance no. 21 of March 31, 2021, the Government of Romania decided to grant a grant of 241.4 million euros to the Oltenia Energy Complex (CEO), before the investigation of the European Commission regarding the restructuring plan is completed. Greenpeace, together with other important environmental organizations in Europe – Europe Beyond Coal and Bankwatch Romania – notified in a joint letter this violation of the regulations on state aid to the European Commissioner for Competition, Margrethe Vestager.

According to the new emergency ordinance, this rescue grant would be part of the implementation of the CEO’s restructuring plan. However, Romania did not notify this additional measure to the European Commission and did not receive the authorization of the European forum to implement the restructuring plan.

Also, by granting a grant and not a loan, the government transfers to citizens the costs of CO2 emissions, which should be paid by the Oltenia Energy Complex, in violation of the “polluter pays” principle as described in Article 191 (2) of the Treaty on the functioning of the European Union, say environmental organizations.

“Right now, the Ministry of Energy is playing with fire. By adopting this emergency ordinance, Mr. Virgil Popescu defies European rules and institutions, jeopardizing the CEO’s chances of obtaining funding and of truly restructuring itself with the closure of the investigation.

“Let it be very clear: we are for the restructuring of the Oltenia Energy Complex, but not under any conditions. We understand that this process cannot happen without financial support, but it must be granted in accordance with the law. At the same time, public money must not support the production of energy from coal or other toxic fossil fuels. CEO has a future and development perspectives only if he leaves behind fossil fuels and focuses on renewable energy,” says Vlad Cătună, campaign coordinator of Greenpeace Romania.

The in-depth investigation is in the consultation phase by 19 April; all interested parties are invited to comment on the CEO’s restructuring and decarbonisation plan. Although in the note substantiating the emergency ordinance mentioned the Ministry of Energy is circulating changes to the initial plan proposed to the Commission, no updated version has been made available to the general public. In practice, interested parties do not have the necessary information to submit relevant comments in the public consultation process, says Greenpeace.

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