The European Green Deal and the Risk of Widening the East-West Gap

Författare: Popov Julian

The European Green Deal could accelerate convergence between newer and older member states. But if its implementation is badly managed, argues Julian Popov of the European Climate Foundation, it will instead widen the economic and social gap between East and West. (2021:17epa)

In 2019 the European Commission launched the European Green Deal (EGD), aiming to address climate change and environmental degradation while ensuring that no-one is left behind during what is described as a ‘just transition’. It combines funding for green initiatives with targets and regulation across sectors, and will profoundly shape European economies and societies.

The same speed and direction of transformation across Europe is not guaranteed, argues Julian Popov, Fellow of the European Climate Foundation, a platform for philanthropy in Europe, and Chairman of the independent think tank Buildings Performance Institute Europe. The risk is, he writes, that member states in Central and Eastern Europe will not internalise EGD principles, but rather see it as a set of targets requiring only limited and superficial reform. They will make only some progress while other member states make much more; instead of closing, the East-West gap will widen. This relative slowdown will affect CEE countries’ economic performance, but also that of the EU as a whole.  

This European Policy Analysis examines that risk across seven sectors: energy; transport; buildings; air quality; research and development; education, and digitalisation. It suggests that a widening gap is not inevitable and proposes ways of mitigating that risk; policies which would even enable CEE member states to leapfrog stages in the journey to climate neutrality and energy security. Among the propositions are green transport corridors, transformation of coal regions, and reform of energy taxes. It also makes recommendations for how the Commission and other EU institutions can encourage a broad and deep transformation leading to greater economic and social convergence.