Cutting wasteful EU investments
Economic investments can often be misleading, especially when it is a short term investment at the cost of the environment. Through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the EU has been investing in a container terminal hub project in the Porto di Gioia Tauro area for more than 12 years with the intention of enhancing Calabria’s growth path. This project had severe environmental impacts, especially with dredging of the seabed. However, according to the ex-post evaluation, the project had originally been too ambitious and highly risky in the socio‐economic context. At a local level, the transhipment activity of the port did not lead to increased long term and sustainable jobs, additional benefits did not materialise and living conditions did not improve. There was very little industrial development of the surrounding area, despite much effort (and money) being spent. The port currently sits with a vast and well‐equipped port terminal and a practically empty industrial zone behind it. In 2009, it received a further investment of EUR 76 million from the ERDF to promote logistics and intermodalities of the port – mainly for a regasification plant, i.e. subsidising of fossil fuels.
Environment helping local communities and increasing collaboration
The ERDF spent half of its budget in 2009 funding a project that aimed at turning an abandoned industrial site in Naples into a local recreational park with a direct benefit on the environment and in the quality of life of the citizens. The benefits included creating around 175 jobs within 40 hectares of the park; installing 1880 m² of photovoltaic facilities, which will produce 660 kW of energy; and a turnover of more than 1 million visitors coming to the park every year.
The ERDF has also been used to meet obligations of the Birds Directive through the collaboration between different stakeholders in Puglia. The project increased collaboration and willingness to cooperate amongst agencies, institutions, private individuals and environmental associations, such as the cooperation between LIPU (Birdlife in Italy) and the Municipality of Laterza. The benefits of the project not only helped improving species populations and knowledge of their conservation status, but it also increased the importance of the site and the economic turnover, increasing the amount of visitors to the local reserve by 30%.