Proposal for a Council Regulation on State aid to facilitate the closure of uncompetitive coal mines

Gist of the opinion

The Committee regrets not having being consulted by the Council, particularly considering the remit of the Consultative Commission on Industrial Change (CCMI), which was incorporated into the Committee as a permanent working structure and took on the role of the European Coal and Steel Committee (ECSC) Consultative Committee.

The Committee believes that the timeframe specified by the Commission is too short and does not meet the sector's development needs: the period 2011-2018 would be more appropriate – in the same way as the period 2002-2010 – for ascertaining whether the sector's undertakings are competitive, in the light of market technology developments, as regards low-cost CCS, clean coal and mining techniques.

In the same way, the Committee believes that the rate of degressivity is too high and concentrated in timeframes that are too short for competitiveness to be recovered and for innovation in the area of production, clean coal and CCS. In addition, the aid should reward rather than punish (as the proposal does) undertakings which recoup their competitiveness margins

The EESC calls for a mid-term check on the competitiveness of clean coal (CC) compared to the levels of competitiveness of other EU indigenous energy resources in the 2020 perspective, the aid granted to other indigenous energy sources and aid supporting the use of coal on the global markets, the volatility of international fossil fuel prices and the added value for Europe of indigenous resources, as well as the costs of converting electric power stations and decommissioning disused mines

The Committee underlines the existence of unbalanced competition between an imported product and an indigenous product, and indicates that the aid systems of the exporter countries need to be examined more clearly and with greater transparency. The Committee believes, moreover, that there should be more careful, consistent verification, when agreements are signed with third countries, that a requirement is included to respect relevant ILO social standards in order to prevent exploitation of miners and ensure optimum safety conditions and protection of workers from the often fatal accidents which occur in the largest world production sites.

The EESC believes that a package of measures is needed to kick-start a sustainable energy model and to provide the sector with a clear, stable reference framework which includes energy planning that safeguards security of supply, respect for the social, territorial and environmental aspects and the 2020-2050 roadmap.