The EPP Group in the European Committee of the Regions (EPP-CoR) welcomes today’s announcement for a Just Transition Fund (JTF) by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen to support the clean energy transition of Europe’s regions dependent on fossil fuels, such as coal, and carbon-intensive industries with EUR 7.5 bn of additional funding.

The announcement answers calls by the EPP-CoR and the EPP Group in the European Parliament for additional EU funds to mitigate the social, socio-economic and environmental impact of structural change in European coal regions. The EPP-CoR strongly welcomes the EC’s proposal for a place-based approach where the fund will be managed together with local and regional authorities under the Common Provisions Regulation (CPR) of cohesion policy.

The JTF proposal also takes on board the CoR’s call for increased flexibility with regard to regional state aid, which would enable coal regions to make the necessary investments to shift their economies towards carbon-neutrality in the long term.

Mark Speich (EPP/DE), CoR rapporteur on Socioeconomic structural change in Europe’s coal regions and State Secretary of North Rhine-Westphalia said:

“I appreciate very much the fact that a lot of recommendations as laid down in the CoR opinion on ‘Socioeconomic Structural Change of Coal Regions in Europe’ are reflected in today’s Commission proposal on the Just Transition Fund: additional resources for coal regions, implementation under shared management and as part of cohesion policy, etc.

Nevertheless, now the upcoming legislative process has to make sure that the JTF does not result in unjustified reductions in other important cohesion and structural policy programmes. Finally, I miss the Commission’s clear statement that all coal regions exiting coal receive the right to promote investments in order to compensate for the expected losses in employment.”    

In this respect, Nikola Dobroslavić (EPP/HR), CoR Rapporteur on the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) for the years 2021-2027 and President of the Dubrovnik-Neretva Region stated: “The EPP-CoR Group supports the principle of the Just Transition Fund. We welcome the fresh funding for this instrument amounting to 7.5 billion euros, on top of the existing Commission proposal for the next MFF. However, we warn that this additional funding must not be regarded as compensation for the proposed cuts to cohesion policy. We continue to reject any reductions of funding for policies that have already proven their success.”

The JTF will deliver support and investments for clean and renewable energy, energy efficiency, SMEs, regeneration of sites and land restoration, digital connectivity, upskilling and reskilling of workers.

“A proper place-based shared management of the Just Transition Fund will make it possible to really deliver climate protection on a large scale in regions that need it the most, and to achieve a transition which is a success story for the people, local communities and SMEs”, said Witold Stepien (EPP/PL), CoR rapporteur on sustainable energy transition and Marshal of the Łódzkie Voivodeship.

Europe’s 41 coal-producing regions face the biggest challenges in greening their economies and ensuring a just energy transition for their citizens. The EPP-CoR will work with the EU co-legislators to achieve policies which will help the regions move towards clean energy while boosting European competitiveness and responding to the ambitious goals set out in the European Green Deal.

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