In recent days, cities across the Balkans have been smothered in deadly smog. Residents were unable to leave their homes and the government issued official warnings.
Emergency measures were taken in the Bosnian capital Sarajevo over the weekend, with the Serbian government calling an emergency meeting on Wednesday as pollution levels peaked.
Solidarity with my friends from #Belgrade who suffer from the worst air pollution in this city. While the #EU at least discusses a much-needed Green New Deal, the periphery – other Balkan cities too (#Sarajevo, #Zagreb, etc) – suffocates. Join the protests @nedavimobgd pic.twitter.com/EZYJdDYNNm
— Srecko Horvat (@HorvatSrecko) January 16, 2020
According to a report released last year by the United Nations Environment Programme, Sarajevo has one of the highest levels of air pollution in Europe. People in the Western Balkans lose on average up to 1.3 years of their life due to air pollution.
Croatian police on Wednesday also urged citizens living in the capital Zagreb to use public transport and avoid bicycles or scooters.
We believe that the European Union has a historic responsibility to support just transitions across the continent – and beyond. Announcing her “green deal”, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said “every continent must find its own way” when it comes to the climate. But no other country in the world can achieve a just transition alone – even Europe suffers from a deeply unequal distribution of the burden of air pollution.
A Green New Deal for Europe must therefore also be a Green New Deal for Bosnia, a Green New Deal for Serbia and a Green New Deal for other countries whose citizens suffer from climate and environmental degradation. .
This is why global climate justice is explicitly included in our program as one of the 10 pillars of the Green New Deal for Europe.
Our 10 pillars of the Green New Deal for Europe say:
The environmental crisis is global and the Green New Deal must be global.
Europe has a historic responsibility and must take the lead in this global effort. For more than two centuries, European countries have favored aggressive pollution and the extraction of raw materials and have accepted the considerable damage caused to other countries. The Green New Deal for Europe must repair this colonial legacy. It must redistribute funds to rehabilitate overexploited regions, protect against sea level rise and ensure a decent standard of living for all climate refugees. And it must ensure that green change in Europe does not export pollution to other countries in the world and does not continue to depend on the resources of the global South. The supply chain for energy change in Europe must respect the principles of social and environmental justice. Although we are proud to provide aid to the countries of the South, European companies profit far more from interest claims, resource theft and wage dumping. In order to bring about global green change, the Green New Deal must end these exploitative economic practices and finally respect human rights everywhere – thus paving the way for environmental justice worldwide.
What applies to the Global South also applies to our Balkan neighbors. Where we have been dumping our old diesel vehicles for years and engaging in wage dumping with our production-intensive industries and their polluting industries, and where our factories contribute massively to local environmental pollution.
We must not ignore Europe’s historical responsibility towards the Global South and the countries of Eastern Europe.
Srećko Horvat, Croatian philosopher and founding member of DiEM25 says:
“For years the EU has been silent on the air pollution that is suffocating the Balkans. As Germany goes through an “Energiewende”, Balkan countries such as Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia are currently facing dangerous levels of air pollution, which are not only the result of incompetent governments , but also of the great atmospheric divide between Western Europe and its periphery, namely the Balkans. These days, Balkan cities look more like heavily polluted cities in India or China. And, as people take to the streets to protest against air pollution, both in Serbia and in Bosnia, it is the EU that must deliver a much more transformative Green New Deal than the one proposed by Ursula von der Leyen. There cannot be a “green transition” in just one country. The Balkans are also part of Europe.
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