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Initiative for coal regions in transition in the Western Balkans and Ukraine

Building bridges for a just transition by helping coal regions to move towards a carbon-neutral economy.

The Initiative for coal regions in transition in the Western Balkans and Ukraine was implemented from December 2020 until December 2023. It aimed to help countries and regions to move away from coal towards a carbon-neutral economy, while ensuring a just transition. It delivered support to coal regions in EU neighbouring countries, namely Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo*, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia, and Ukraine.

The initiative was managed by the European Commission and 6 collaborating international partners: the World Bank, the Energy Community Secretariat, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), the European Investment Bank (EIB), Poland’s National Fund for Environment Protection and Water Management (NFOSiGW), and the College of Europe in Natolin.

The European Commission, Directorate-General for European Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations (DG NEAR), is planning a just transition initiative for the Western Balkans under the the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance 2024. This new initiative is foreseen to start in 2024 and will build on and expand the current initiative.

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Regions in focus

An initial screening identified at least 17 regions with significant coal mining activities and coal-based energy production eligible to participate in the initiative. Their participation in the initiative 's activities was voluntary, and while 17 regions were identified, it remained at their discretion to actively engage.

Moreover, the initiative was open to any region with coal mining activities and coal use for energy purposes in the 6 countries covered by the initiative. Regions with no ongoing coal mining activities but with a significant reliance on coal for energy production, such as for electricity or heat, were also considered eligible to this initiative on a case-by-case basis.

Region Country

Tuzla canton, Srednjobosanski canton, Zeničko-Dobojski canton, Ugljevik region, Gacko region

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Prishtina region


Pljevlja region


Bitola region, Kičevo region

North Macedonia

Kostolac region, Kolubara region, Obrenovac region, Pomoravlje region


Donets’k region, Luhans’k region, Lviv region, Volyn region


Actions and assistance

The initiative provided an open platform allowing region-wide, multi-stakeholder dialogue. It created a space for sharing experiences, knowledge and best practices on transition-related issues and encouraged ties between coal regions in the Western Balkans and Ukraine and their EU counterparts through coal region-to-region exchanges.

Capacity among relevant stakeholders was built through a Coal Regions Learning Academy offering dedicated trainings on governance, community engagement, environmental reclamation, and repurposing of land and assets.

The selected pilot regions were provided with access to technical assistance in the form of expert support to develop transition roadmaps for relevant public authorities. The initiative also aimed to help coal regions access financing for transition projects or programmes, based on various sources available from the European Commission, the World Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and the European Investment Bank.


The initiative’s secretariat provided direct support for its implementation and collaboration between the different institutions and actors. The secretariat was actively involved in maintaining relationships with relevant stakeholders in the coal regions and engaging them in the discussion through communication activities and tailored events, such as public meetings and national workshops. It also developed and implemented the coal region-to-region exchange programme with coal regions from the EU.

The secretariat of the initiative for coal regions in transition in the Western Balkans and Ukraine was launched by the European Commission on 9 February 2021. It was based in Brussels and co-run by Ecorys, Climate Strategies, the Central Mining Institute (GIG), ICLEI Europe, and the Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment, Energy, which together built a consortium with expert knowledge of the situation in all of the participating countries.

Relation to EU coal regions

The initiative built on the experiences of the EU Initiative for coal regions in transition, which has connected stakeholders, provided technical assistance and developed support materials for affected regions since 2017.

Both initiatives have contributed to implementing the European Green Deal, thereby helping build Europe’s strategy for green, sustainable growth. The Green Deal focuses on making the EU climate-neutral by 2050. Early involvement of key EU partners and neighbours, such as the Western Balkans and Ukraine, is crucial for its successful implementation. Coal regions across and beyond the EU are key players in this development.

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*This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSCR 1244/1999 and the ICJ opinion on the Kosovo declaration of independence.