Фото: Мета.мк

In 2022, just like in the previous years, the European Commission (EC) in its Report on North Macedonia’s progress in the EU integration process, once again came up with criticism about air pollution in North Macedonia. In the chapter “Environment and climate change”, EU pinpointed the acceleration of the efforts to cut air pollution, both on local and national level, as the first task of the Macedonian authorities that needs extra effort.

In its report, the EU Commission stresses that the implementation of this promise is still problematic in all sectors, including the work on cutting down air pollution.

“The country needs to considerably step up ambitions regarding the green transition, notably in the context of the Green Agenda for the Western Balkans,” states the Report. 

Regarding the air quality, the Report states that in July 2021 the amendments to the law on ambient air quality were adopted. The Report also states that the 2021 Air Quality Plan for Bitola has been prepared, including the 2021 Air Pollution Reduction Program, and the preparation of four Air Quality Plans has been launched in August and October, together with 5 Cadastres of air pollutants.

„Despite the progress made, air quality remains a major concern in large cities” states the EC’s report, adding that two automatic monitoring stations for ambient air quality were set up in the municipalities of Berovo and Prilep, and the measuring instruments of several existing monitoring stations were replaced.

Gorjan Jovanovski, environmental activist and councillor from “Zelen human grad” (Green Humane City) at the City of Skopje’s Council, for Meta.mk said that the remark about air pollution in the EU Commission’s report has been present in the past 5 years, and Arijanit Xhaferi a member of Eco-Guerilla, also points to that.

“The ambient air is mentioned each time, but there isn’t any major progress. Macedonia has a lot to do, from installing a much larger network of measuring stations that will monitor the air quality and the impact the implemented measures have had, to complete acception of the solar energy both by the households, the businesses and the state institutions,” Gorjan Jovanovski said.

He adds that in the next period the government should concentrate on rigid inspections, followed by appropriate fines, especially for the businesses and industries that are polluting the air uncontrollably. Jovanovski criticized the State Environmental Inspectorate and says is almost “nonexistant”. Despite the increased inspections, what is necessary is an automatic monitoring systems and revoking the licenses of those companies that are polluting the air. Gorjan Jovanovski reminds that the air pollution is the cause of 3,000 deaths annualy.

Regarding the EC’s Report, Jovanovski thinks that it is pretty brief in the Environment section.

“I think that the activists and the civil society organizations can help the local EU Delegation in expanding that section for the next year. I don’t see that we are making real progress regarding air pollution, and which are the measures that we have made any real progress with? In my opinion, the EU should put the environment above all other remarks, as the most critical for people’s lives and health. It has to be the first and main condition for continuing the accession negotiations,” says environmental activist Gorjan Jovanovski, who claims that this is the only way for the institutions to start fighting this problem.

The civic initiative “Platform 27” has also reacted to the Environment section in the Report of the European Commission. This initiative includes the major environnmental associations and organizations from North Macedonia.

“The latest report of the European Commission registers improvements in the legislation on air quality, but serious investments are needed in all key sectors. The situation is the same regarding reaching the targets for achieving climate neutrality,” states the Platform 27th press release.

Even the Institute for European Policy – EPI published a brief analysis after the European Union’s Report was published. In the part concerning Chapter 27 – Evironment, the country has made certain progress compared to previous years of stagnation or limited progress. The remarks about the implementation remain, states EPI’s analysis. 

North Macedonia, facing extreme air pollution, does not have a state laboratory to measure it

Only several days before the European Commission’s report was published, Meta.mk informed that the Central Environmental Laboratory will not be operational during the forthcoming winter to monitor the quality of the air we shall be breathing. The Ministry of Environment’s laboratory, although established decades ago, has not yet been accredited for any method of monitoring air pollution.

Regarding air pollution, Meta.mk regularly briefed about the increased import of used cars from abroad, the operations by thermal power plants, the increased use of diesel fuel, the failure to introduce environmentals stickers for cars and a series of other topics about air quality.