The European Union has accelerated its programme of phasing out coal subsidies, jeopardising more than 100,000 jobs. Effectively, all hard coal mining in Germany, Spain, Romania, Poland, Hungary and Slovakia deemed as loss making may be forced to close.
The European Coal and Steel Community treaty ended in 2002 after more than 50 years. Once the treaty had expired EU states were no longer “allowed” to subsidise their national coal industries. A regulation to provide subsidies for hard coal was adopted but only on the basis that subsidies were linked to pit closures of alleged uneconomic pits. The European Union initially indicated that phasing out of subsidies would be extended to 2022. This was shortened to 2018 and has now been reduced again to 2014.
The decision to bring forward the pit closure programme is a reflection of the economic crisis within the European Union. European miners are paying the price of cheap imports and having the European Union’s financial crisis passed from the bureaucrats in Brussels to the mining families of the Germany’s Ruhr, North West Spain, Romania’s Jiu Valley and so forth.
The decision to accelerate the closures is being crowed over by such organisations as WWF and Friends of the Earth, which deem it a “financially smart, socially just and environmentally effective policy that the EU must show more of”. Smart if you are a failing capitalist, socially unjust if you are a miner and environmentally mumbo jumbo if industry is not going to be applied to resolve environmental problems.
The destruction of Europe’s mining industries reflects the destruction in Britain, France and Belgium over 25 years ago. Destruction of Britain’s mining industry is reflected in the National Union of Mineworkers having only 1,611 working members (from over 250,000 in 1979). NACODS, the deputies’ union, has only 339 deputies in membership.