The Just Transition Fund is supposed to support local businesses in carbon intensive regions. In Czechia, a network of political-industrial elites might instead derail EU funding to the benefit of big polluting industries.
In a nutshell:
- Public funds should be used to accelerate the decarbonisation of the economy
- The Czech Just Transition Fund might instead benefit big polluting industries
- A conflict of interests for the Czech Prime Minister
The Just Transition Fund should be invested into the just transformation of European coal regions. In order to leave no one behind, local small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) should be at the forefront of economic diversification at local level. Yet, it seems that rather big industries hit the jackpot in Czechia. Industrial conglomerates such as ČEZ (energy), United Energy, Cínovecká deponie and Lovochemie are among the main beneficiaries.
Lovochemie is supposed to receive the highest share – approximately €230 million – for investments into the modernisation of its energy infrastructure such as new fossil gas boilers, a heat pump and a solar park. It seems like Czechia has forgotten the Fund’s initial objective of supporting a just transition in the most affected coal regions. In this context, the money should have been spent for the devastated landscape of the Ústí nad Labem, Karlovy Vary and Moravian-Silesian regions, not to beef up the wallets of Czech billionaires.
Allocating Just Transition funding to big industries would not only protect the biggest polluters, but it also feeds into an unsavory oligarch system. Lovochemie is – indirectly – owned by Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš, while Richard Brabec, the Minister for the environment, had a prominent role in the company’s supervisory board, to which he might return after the end of his mandate. It would be a golden parachute financed by the EU funds foreseen to support local communities.