Ex-Soviet bloc states urged to adopt modern technology, renewables

BRATISLAVA – Countries in Central and Eastern Europe like Slovakia, which were part of the Soviet bloc, have an opportunity to leap into modern technologies and renewables and not get stuck in stranded investments into gas, a Slovak Member of the European Parliament, Martin Hojsik, told New Europe in an interview at the sidelines of the GLOBSEC forum on June 16.

“What we see now is often the arguments coming from some Central and East European countries about, ‘Yes, we know we need to deal with climate but we are special, it’s very hard for us, we are highly industrialized so we have to be taken benevolently, so don’t push us too much,” said Hojsik, who is also a member of the ENVI Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety.

“Now I think this is not about pushing, this is about incredible opportunity for Central and Eastern Europe. Especially, if we don’t take it seriously, if we don’t utilize the opportunity, we will end up forever trapped, for a long-time trapped in the middle-income trap that we had and we are facing now,” the Slovak MEP said.

He explained that the green transition, especially for the countries of the Soviet bloc that had the massive decline of their heavy industries now represents an opportunity to leap into modern technologies, to leap into renewables and not get stuck in stranded investments into gas. “I think that’s an opportunity that we have to use. In terms of the ambition, I’m sad to see Central European countries and especially Poland often backing away from higher ambitions where we actually have a good starting line,” Hojsik said.

“If we take for example of Denmark, which is seen as one of the leaders and I think the Danish national target for reduction of greenhouse gas is minus 70 percent by 2030. Slovakia, the government will you, ‘Oh, that’s too ambitious.’ Now, at the moment, Slovakia is at minus 42 because the base line is 1990 and we are so deep because we essentially got rid of old polluting industries from Communism. Denmark is at minus 30. So, what we are saying is, ‘Although we would have to make less effort than Denmark, it’s still too much for us.’ And I think this is the wrong message. I think we need to work more and look for ways how to really use this as opportunity for a just transition,” Hojsik opined.

Some countries like Spain, for example, which is now heavily going into renewables, they are actually above the 1990 levels because they industrialized and increased their emissions post-1990 while the former Communist bloc the emissions generally fell.” So, Romania is already now at minus 55 from the 1990. So, for them, it is essentially an opportunity to really to kind of look at beyond fundamental changes, of course starting with energy efficiency and second renewables,” he said.

The Slovak MEP said that reducing his country’s reliance on gas and increasing investment into renewables would boost energy security for the Central European country.

Slovakia has very limited amounts of fossil resources. “Slovakia is utilizing 100 percent Russian gas. Oil is from Russia. I think this is where not only vis-à-vis the risks of Russian supply and dependency on Russia but generally in terms of approaching strategical autonomy if things happen. For that, renewables are the best. Like a concrete example in Slovakia, Kosice is the capital of Slovakia has a central heating powered by coal. A few years ago, there was a project to improve the emissions as well as greenhouse gases by turning to gas,” he said. “The gas is imported from Russia. Fifty kilometers away there is a geothermal source which could actually heat more than half of the city. It was drilled in the 90s, it was never utilized,” Hojsik added.

Kosice, which is situated on the river Hornad at the eastern reaches of the Slovak Ore Mountains, near the border with Hungary, is the largest city in eastern Slovakia. The most abundant geothermal resource, not only in Slovakia but throughout the central Europe, is Kosice basin.

“It would provide us not only with environmental sound source for the heating but also strategically independence or lessen the dependence on the imports, not to mention the money would stay in the country. So, economically there is added value, you wouldn’t have to send the money for the gas to Gazprom and Putin’s regime,” he said, stressing that investing in energy efficiency and renewable energy is also very important for energy security.

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