EU funds spent on ‘environmentally harmful’ projects including 2 Polish airports

Bankwatch and Friends of the Earth Europe have produced a study that shows the EU is funding a range of projects in central and eastern Europe, such as roads, incinerators, biomass power stations, railways and airports, which are environmentally harmful.  They list 33 projects, including  two airports (Białystok and Modlin) which are both in Poland. The study says while EU leaders are in the “hot phase” of negotiating the next EU budget for 2014-2020, current spending practices need to be altered if Europe is serious about its climate change and environmental targets.  They say “What we have found is that they are funding unsustainable, unmodern investments. Decision makers have not learnt from the past experience.”  Both the airports are shown to have problems for birds, including serious risk of birdstrike.



02.02.12  (EU

By Valentina Pop

BRUSSELS – Waste incinerators instead of recycling, highways running through nature parks, airports in protected areas – 33 projects in central and eastern Europe funded with €16 billion out of the EU’s regional policy coffers are “environmentally harmful”, says a study published on Thursday (2 February) by Friends of the Earth Europe and Bankwatch, a coalition of environmental NGOs.  (Visualisation at

“These 33 projects are economically dubious, socially harmful and in breach of environmental law,” Markus Trilling from Friends of the Earth Europe said during a press briefing.

He noted that while EU leaders are in the “hot phase” of negotiating the next EU budget for 2014-2020, current spending practices need to be altered if Europe is serious about its climate change and environmental targets.

Cohesion policy – the EU term for the €347 billion allocated in 2007 to 2013 mainly to Europe’s former Communist countries to revamp schools, roads and other infrastructure – has to follow broad EU outlines for sustainable or environmental-friendly targets. But it is ultimately up to national governments to approve the individual projects.

“What we have found is that they are funding unsustainable, unmodern investments. Decision makers have not learnt from the past experience of Spain, Portugal, Greece – once the biggest recipients of structural funds – where money was used to fuel housing bubbles and to construct highways instead of a more balanced approach, such as more public transportation, railways, investments in energy efficiency,” Trilling said.

In Bulgaria, the EU’s poorest member, waste management is still far away from any recycling practices seen in the western countries, said Genady Kondarev from Bankwatch.

A project worth €184 million pending EU approval aims at incinerating all waste collected in the Bulgarian capital, Sofia, which is currently being transported and piled up in large landfills outside the city. “Almost 100 percent of the waste is landfilled. Only a marginal 1.9-2.5 percent is being recycled, mainly by Roma going through the garbage and selling some of the recycled materials,” Kondarev said.

If the project is approved, the timid government effort to get people to sort rubbish will be even less effective, he argued. “Already people are very sceptical about the different coloured bins, since they see that they all go in the same garbage vans. With an incinerator, there will be no incentives for recycling,” he explained.

Other projects, such as the Salgotarjan biomass power plant in Hungary, may look environmentally friendly, but risks creating a perverse effect.

“Because of its reliance on waste wood from forestry and chopped logs, logging would increase pressure on surrounding forests, where not enough wood is produced annually to fuel a power plant with even 20 percent less capacity. Also the plant would be constructed in a populated area, so air pollution and low-particulate dust is of major concern,” the study says.

Map showing location of two airport schemes, both in Poland:

Białystok airport

This project in northeastern Poland has been criticised by local environmental groups for the damage it presents to the world-famous Biebrza and Narew national parks and their unique bird populations. The clashes with important bird areas also implies flight safety concerns due to probable collisions between planes and birds. In early 2011 the project’s environmental decision was revoked, and a new environmental impact assessment is under way to consider other project locations.

Modlin airport

The project will redevelop a former military airport near Warsaw to supplement the main Warsaw airport with charter, low-cost and cargo operations. Situated near the confluence of two major rivers – the Narew and Vistula – the airport is located at a key stopover site for migrating birds and several NATURA 2000 sites. Not only will the airport impact the surrounding environment but also may pose flight safety risks from likely collisions with birds. As the project’s environmental decision was upheld in Polish courts and airport construction is underway, only the Commission can now ensure compliance with EU legislation.


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Billions of EU funds wasted on dead-end investments

February 2, 2012  (Bankwatch press release)

New map shows socially and environmentally harmful projects in central and eastern Europe

The online version of the map  ‘Roadmap to sustainability or dead-end investments’ is available at:

Brussels – Substantial environmental and social harm is being caused by controversial projects costing billions of euros of EU money, according to research published today by Friends of the Earth Europe and CEE Bankwatch Network.

The groups have mapped 33 harmful projects in Central and Eastern Europe with total costs of sixteen billion euros. The projects, which include highways passing through protected nature sites, waste incinerators and airports, are being paid for – or being considered for financial support in the future – by Cohesion Policy Funds in the current EU budget.

The map includes projects from Bulgaria, Macedonia, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland and Estonia.

The projects will cause damage such as increased pollution, loss of biodiversity, increased risk of flooding, and displacement of local communities.

Markus Trilling, EU Funds coordinator for Friends of the Earth Europe and Bankwatch, said:

“As we wait for the European Council and Parliament to have their say on the next European budget, this map shows that controversial projects are unfortunately not limited to a few isolated exceptions. EU money has the potential to bring lots of benefits to central and eastern European countries but if nothing changes it will bring substantial environmental and social harm throughout the region.”

“These projects are mistakes Europe cannot afford to make. Future legislation must specifically prohibit the use of Cohesion Policy funds for detrimental projects.”

The research shows that almost 6.5 billion euros has been spent on detrimental projects. Almost 5 billion euros are set to go the same route, and projects totalling another 5 billion are currently considered for financing in the seven central and eastern European countries.

“Money must no longer be squandered on such foolish investments,” adds Trilling. “It is vital that the next one trillion euro EU budget offers possibilities for overcoming the current recession and de-carbonising economies. Courageous action is needed to overturn the legacy of bad planning and realise the beneficial potential of EU funds.” [3]

For more information please contact

Markus Trilling
EU Funds coordinator for Friends of the Earth Europe and Bankwatch
markus.trilling AT
 Cohesion Policy Funds amounted to 344 billion euros out of the total 975 billion euro EU budget for the 2007-2013 period.

Read more about the EC’s legislative proposals for the new EU Budget at:

 Read Bankwatch and Friends of the Earth Europe’s more detailed recommendations for EU regional funds 2014-2020 and how they can put Europe on a sustainable development path, ‘Funding Europe’s future’ October 2011, at:

Read recommendations for a green EU budget from the Coalition for Sustainable EU Funds at:…

Eight Polish airports to receive state aid


Today the European Commission authorised an aid scheme for eight Polish airports. With Cohesion Fund part-financing of €251.5 million, the aid programme includes new terminal construction and runway modernisation.

The aid scheme, which targets those airports forming part of the trans-European transport network, covers the airports of Warsaw, Gdańsk, Wrocław, Poznań, Szczecin, Rzeszów, Kraków and Katowice.

The aid is to be granted by the Ministry of Infrastructure and the regional and local authorities. All the regional airports may receive grants of up to 75% of the cost of the investment while Warsaw airport will receive a maximum of 30%.