How European funds are changing Silesia and other regions that are still dependent on coal? BiznesAlert.pl asked about it one of the creators of the program supporting the transformation of post-mining regions in the European Union, prof. Jerzy Buzek, Member of the European Parliament and chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE).
BiznesAlert.pl: How can mining regions benefit from the help of the European Union?
Jerzy Buzek: As shows even this week – the EU gives a lot of such opportunities. On Tuesday, Jastrzębska Spółka Węglowa signed with the European Investment Bank, two investment financing agreements for the 1 billion PLN, among others. Banks are hardly involved in the coal industry at the moment, but it is about coking coal – and it has the status of a raw material of strategic importance for the EU. Nearly 2 years ago, I tried to maintain this status – today we can see that it made sense.
Let’s talk about the second example from Monday when we opened the Secretariat of the Mining Areas Support Platform in Brussels. I have been talking about it to Commissioners Cañete and Šefčovič (Energy and Climate and the Energy Union – ed.) since 2015, and we defined its exact form at the European Economic Congress in Katowice in 2017. The funds for its operation were ensured through appropriate amendments to the EU budget for 2018 and 2019. I am going to submit the same amendment for 2020. The most important task of the Secretariat now is to help mining regions, such as Silesia, to prepare good projects bearing in mind the Fund for Fair Energy Transition.
Establishing this Fund, with a budget of at least EUR 5 billion, comes from your proposal submitted on behalf of ITRE. The whole European Parliament supported it. How did you managed to reach such a compromise?
In the same way like we reach all compromises within the EP – from roaming through the gas directive to mining regions: by presenting arguments, through negotiations and dialogue with representatives of various political groups. There is no other effective way. It is no coincidence that as the chairman of the ITRE committee, I organized a study trip to Silesia for group of MEP’s. I have argued that if we seriously treat extremely ambitious commitments stemming from Paris Agreement – accepted by the entire EU, including Poland – we must help the residents of regions for whom climate policy is the greatest challenge.
So how can the European Union help them and respond to the social challenges of energy transformation?
The fund is designed to support broadly understood social innovations that improve the quality of everyday life of the residents of these regions. It’s about improving air quality, combating smog, and revitalizing cities. But in the same time the fund should support investments in post-mining areas or construction of a modern, environmentally friendly industry. This should help to create attractive jobs, give an impulse to the development of small and medium enterprises or start-ups. It will also keep young people in these regions. This is the purpose of this Fund.
Interview by Wojciech Jakóbik