Commission could overturn 2014 coal subsidy cut-off
16.09.10 @ 09:32
BRUSSELS - EU energy commissioner Guenther Oettinger sees a "realistic chance" for the EU to extend the deadline for coal subsidies from 2014 to 2018, a move the German politician is pushing for after having let Berlin down during negotiations in Brussels.
Germany had lost the subsidies battle in July, when Mr Oettinger, much to the anger of Chancellor Angela Merkel, missed a key meeting in the college of commissioners where a decision on the matter was taken.
Along with Spain, also home to a number of large coal mines, Germany had tried to extend a special subsidy regime for one last time until 2023, with 2018 eyed as final compromise.
But an alliance of commissioners led by climate change czar Connie Hedegaard managed to counter Jose Manuel Barroso's attempt to fudge the issue and the deadline was set for 2014.
Speaking on Wednesday (15 September) at a conference organised by German energy giant RWE, Mr Oettinger suggested a new compromise was still possible. The deadline could be extended to 2018, provided Germany reviews its coal mine policy this year instead of 2012 and vows to really put an end to the subsidies in 2018.
"If there is a credibile end [to the subsidy policy], then Germany could still get an extension," Mr Oettinger said.
This proposal is already agreed with the Spanish commissioner, Joaquin Almunia, Mr Barroso and Ms Merkel, he said.
Getting the support of competition ministers, who are set to meet in October in Brussels, will be crucial, Mr Oettinger added. To most EU countries, this issue is of little relevance, except Spain, he explained.
Germany's subsidies to coal mines reach around €2 billion a year. From 1997 and 2006 the figures were even higher, with federal support of €30 billion and regional aid schemes of another €5 billion. Another €10 billion are expected to flow to these coal mines by 2018.
Not standing up to Germany and extending this state support scheme for a heavy-polluting industry would however cast a shadow across the "green economy" discourse promoted by the European Commission and its targets to have CO2 emissions cut down by 20 percent on 1990 levels by 2020.