In 2007, the German government decided to phase out coal mining subsidies in Germany by 2018, with the intention of reviewing its decision in 2012. Now the EU is pressing for a 2014 end to the subsidies, angering some.
Hard coal mining subsidies in Germany are scheduled to be phased out
In a bid to secure a 2007 law protecting coal mining subsidies during a phasing-out of domestic production through 2018, union leaders this week called for top-level talks between the German government and mining company RAG.
The law may be threatened by the European Commission's push for subsidies to non-competitive hard coal mines throughout the EU to be cut by October 2014.
The move could greatly affect the German states of North Rhine-Westphalia and Saarland, where five mines employ more than 20,000 miners.
When the agreement to cut subsidies by 2018 was signed into law in 2007, a clause was included that conditions would be reviewed in 2012. At the time, a Deutsche Welle article mentioned some 34,000 miners working in 8 mines throughout Germany.
Coal regions could become blighted
Loss of subsidies could devastate employment in some regions
Christoph Meer, a spokesman for the Mining, Chemical and Energy Industrial Union, said the 2007 agreement was a compromise based in part on a promise that domestic coal mining subsidies would be ended gradually and without the blight of layoffs. Speeding up the process would lead to "significant increases in unemployment in coal mining regions," he said.
"The cost of speeding this up would be massive," he told Deutsche Welle. "If this suggestion of the EU Commission were to be carried it out, it would lead to massive layoffs, and the social model would collapse."
He added that Germany's coal power plants would continue to be stoked with imported coal for years to come, negating any reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.
"What we expect now is for the Federal Government to energetically advocate for Germany's interests with one voice in Brussels," he said.
Author: Gerhard Schneibel
Editor: Cyrus Farivar