European Commission proposal to phase out subsidised coal production by 2014 needs to be amended immediately – time window is narrowing

On the occasion of its meeting on July 20th 2010, the European Commission adopted a legis- lative proposal to replace the existing Council regulation 1407/2002 (the „Coal regulation”) which is due to expire on December 31st 2010.

By agreeing to these essential features

  • closure aid („digressive operational aid” facilitating the closure process) shall be granted to only those mines for which a definitive closure plan exists that comes into effect not later than October 1st 2014
  • obligation to recover any aid granted if mines are not closed after the date fixed in the closure plan

the Commission has grossly disregarded the outcome of the related Impact Assessment carried out by its services. Instead, it followed a series of ill-placed arguments which demands the phasing–out of state aid after a limited period for reasons of principle. By doing so, the Commission deliberately put at risk the jobs of tens of thousands in the European coal sector and related industries. Consequently, in its press release issued August 9th 2010, FECER has highlighted that invaluable social and environmental objectives have been sacrificed for allegedly overriding reasons including competition and climate protection. No doubt, such a decision has all the ingredients to foster resentments vis-à-vis the European integration or at best voter fatigue, as shown during last year’s election of the European Parliament.

Having carefully reviewed the exchange of arguments between the political stakeholders across Europe on the above Commission proposal, FECER members call upon all European Union institutions engaged in finalising the revision of the „Coal regulation” – in particular Commission, Parliament and Council – to take into account the following:

  • for social and environmental reasons, the principal conclusion in the Impact As- sessment was a gradual phasing out of operating aid over a period of up to ten years, i. e. by the year 2020
  • state aid to the coal industry as covered by the Commission proposal 2010/372 does not constitute an “inefficient fossil fuel subsidy” to be abolished in pursuit of the conclusions of the G20 round, as the carbon footprint of coal utilisation will change to a negligible extent only since imported coal will replace local production

However, if the European Union should place principles of regulatory policy above all other political objectives, this would have major consequences within its own realm, e. g. phasing- out of payments to the agricultural sector within a comparable period of time.

In conclusion, FECER is confident, that the EU institutions dealing with the revision of the „Coal regulation” in the weeks to come will be prudent enough to apply the principles of the Europe 2020 strategy in a careful and responsible manner which puts the objectives of job creation and preservation, respectively, on the top of the EU’s strategic agenda during the next decade.

Brussels, October 25th 2010