Parliament proposes to extend aid for non-competitive coal mines until 2018

The European Parliament has voted on Plenary session in favour of extending the deadline proposed by the European Commission for granting aid to non-competitive coal mines. MEPs considered that the deadline should be extended until 31 December 2018, given the serious consequences especially for some EU regions of implementing these new rules.

MEPs considered that the date of 2014 introduced by the Commission in its draft Regulation on State aid to facilitate the closure of non-competitive coal mines is not justified under the impact assessment put forward by the Commission itself. According to this same Impact Assessment the date proposed by the Parliament, 31 December 2018, would also ensure an acceptable solution for the sector.

Moreover, the report adopted by the European Parliament stresses that the overall volume of aid granted by a State to a particular company for closing the facilities must follow a downward trend but does not mention any specific percentage, unlike the Commission which proposed a 33% reduction over a period of fifteen months.

The parliamentary report also proposes that the mines affected by the measures proposed by the Commission would be closed following the closure plan, excepting cases where mines become competitive before the target date and when Union's energy needs may require continuity.

In the debate preceding the vote, Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia highlighted that the Commission is willing to consider the position of the Committee of Permanent Representatives and the European Parliament in favour of extending the period of closure for non-competitive mines, although it does not share the arguments for unlimited aid for those uncompetitive mines considering that closure should be gradually follow the established closure plan.

The report approved by the Parliament Plenary, which is advisory, highlights the serious social consequences which the implementation of these new rules may have particularly in certain regions of the Union. It is therefore absolutely necessary in MEPs point of view to provide retraining schemes for affected workers and to examine all funding opportunities at regional, national and community levels to mitigate the effects.

The Council is expected to adopt this regulation on 10 December, which will then replace the current "Coal Regulation".