To raise awareness of the challenges Europe's coal regions face when pahsing out coal.
Through its opinion work on the socio-economic transformation of coal regions, the ECON succeeded in obtaining very high-level national, regional, Commission and EP attention and support for its recommendation of a Just Transition Fund that is financed with additional money and managed under shared management, closely interlocked with the cohesion funds.
While being sceptical in the beginning, the European Commission has presented a proposal for a Regullation of the European Parliament and the Council establishing the Just Transition Fund on 14 January 2020 where it has propsed a Just Trasntion Fund which was one of the requests in Speich's opinion. In its motivation the European Commission has mentionned the opinion explicitly.
THE EUROPEAN COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS
− is convinced that the energy transition being aimed at, and hence the structural change in coal regions, is a European task. This requires taking a holistic approach, including, in particular, measures for infrastructure development, innovation, research and science, business support and development, development of skilled workers, marketing, culture and tourism;
− calls for structural change to also be supported at European level;
− supports, in this context, the European Parliament's call in the ongoing Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) negotiations for additional funding to mitigate the social, socio-economic and environmental impact of structural change in European coal regions by means of a EUR 4.8 billion new Fair Energy Transition Fund; stresses however that this fund would have to be financed through additional resources and not from the envelope provided for the European Structural and Investment Funds; welcomes the fact that the Commission president-elect has also expressed support in the political guidelines presented in July 2019 for the principle of such a Fair Energy Transition Fund;
− considers, however, that the funding should be closely interlocked with cohesion policy, while the CoR calls for efforts to ensure that this funding is not calculated within the proposed limits of Annex XXII, but is made available as additional funding. This additional funding could then be used to strengthen the ERDF and ESF programmes for these NUTS 2 regions over the next seven years. This interlock would also allow for tailor-made support for all coal regions. This funding is intended to actively promote European added value and is to be open to all coal regions affected by structural change;
− points out that European law on state aid has to be taken into account in this connection and that the current state aid framework expires in 2020, unless the rules are extended by two years (to the end of 2022). The CoR calls on the Commission, when drawing up the new guidelines, to also take account of the problems linked to the structural change in coal regions and to ensure that coal regions have sufficient flexibility to enable them to phase out coal in a socially and economically viable way;