Civil society organisations (CSOs) are protesting against the construction of dams across the Balkan region, which threaten one of Europe’s most important remaining biodiversity hotspots. In June, a petition initiated by the Save the Blue Heart Campaign and signed by more than 120,000 people called on international development banks, “to immediately stop funding for projects that are located in protected areas and other valuable rivers stretches [in the Balkans], apply more stringent green conditions to loans in the sector and increase funding for energy efficiency and other renewable energy sources, whose potential in the region remains largely untapped.”
The International Finance Corporation (IFC, the Bank’s private investment arm) and the Bank’s Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) have supported 10 hydropower plants in Albania since 2005, according to a March report by Central and Eastern European CSO network Bankwatch. In the report, Bankwatch estimated the Bank’s financial support for the projects it identified at €131 million. Since 2005, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), the European Investment Bank (EIB), and the World Bank Group (WBG) have extended loans and guarantees totalling €727 million in support of Balkan dams, according to the report.
The report noted that IFC and MIGA, “have supported 10 greenfield hydropower plants in Albania with loans, guarantees or equity stakes, either directly or through financial intermediaries… Three of the plants appear to be in protected areas. In addition the IFC has provided advisory services for 13 plants, including … in Montenegro, … Macedonia and … Albania.”
“It’s a waste of money and a moral travesty that some of the world’s largest financial institutions have embraced this outdated and exploitative technology and are financing dams in some of the last wild places in Europe,” said Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia, an outdoors company which is part of the Save the Blue Heart Campaign.