General vision on Energy Union
For us, to succeed in the refounding of the European project, we must rethink the current «Europe’s software», and keep-up favoring the balance of economic and social performance factors and long-term investments.
This applies in particular in the field of energy, which is at the heart of the daily lives of citizens and the European economy.
Reducing the carbon intensity of the economy ought to be the heart of the Clean Energy Package.
As energy policy must be helpful to European industry and driven by high quality job creation, the «energy only and short-term market» can’t be an objective in itself !
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
Recently, the European Commission approved a proposal for a Council regulation which requires subsidised coal production across Europe to be phased out by October 1st 2014. As a consequence, tens of thousands of jobs in mining regions which are already severely hit by the global economic crisis are now at risk. In particular, the Ruhr and Saar districts in Germany, Spain’s Asturias, Castilla and León provinces as well as the Xiu valley in Romania would be effected most drastically, but also some regions in Hungary, Poland and Slovakia. FECER’s president François Perniola is deeply concerned, “Despite the conclusions drawn by Commission services from last year’s stakeholder consultation that the industry needs at least ten years to wind down its uncompetitive operations for social and environmental reasons, including adjustment of regional employment structures, the College of Commissioners agreed to allow a life span of less than four years. Moreover, this decision is in stark contrast to the objectives of the EU’s overall strategy until 2020 which puts improvements in employment levels all over Europe as its highest priority.”
FECER thus calls upon the Commission to critically review its recent proposal on a coal regulation beyond 2010 in the light of its strategic objectives, particularly those set forth in the EU2020 strategy. Further, the governments of coal producing Member States are urged to form a coalition and lead the Council to adopt a revised coal regulation that must come into
force as of January 1st 2011. This regulation should enable the industry to phase out its noncompetitive operations in a socially and environmentally acceptable way by allowing for the adjustment of regional employment structures and the creation of alternative employment opportunities over a manageable period of time.
Brussels, August 9th 2010