Most coal regions in Europe are traditional industrial areas in which industrialisation was based on harnessing local resources. They are therefore mainly linked to the iron, steel and metal industries, the chemical industry and other energy-intensive industries. Nowadays, in Europe, there are 185 000 people still employed in coal mines, and a further 52 000 work in coal-fired power plants. The coal industry is also indirectly linked to various economic sectors, such as production of inputs, equipment, services and consumer goods. According to a European Commission study, 160 000 jobs could be lost by 2030 as a result of current plans to phase out coal mining and coal use for power generation.

“The regions concerned face an enormous challenge of socio-economic transformation. Therefore, they deserve support from the European Union. For the protection of our climate, coal regions will abandon current value chains and close coal mines that have to date proved to be profitable. This is particularly the case for lignite mining, which would otherwise remain a key economic factor in the region. Therefore, those regions must get the support from the European Union to build up new socio-economic perspectives for the people that have to shoulder this transformation.” underlines Mark Speich (EPP/DE), Secretary of State for Federal, European and International Affairs from North Rhine Westphalia.

Building up new industries in the regions is a lengthy business that requires considerable financial resources. Local and regional authorities in coal regions need support in this, particularly since they will initially lose revenue as a result of coal production and coal-powered electricity generation being phased out. A large portion of the investment for economic development must come from public funds from the Member States concerned or by attracting new private investments.

Structural change should also be supported by the future Cohesion Policy and by European Funds such as the European Regional Development Fund, the European Social Fund, Horizon 2020 and the resources of the European Investment Bank.

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