AMO/Euractiv.cz: Ustecky region: Recommendations & Opportunities - roundtable, summary
Restructuring of regions that were historically focused on heavy industry, raw material extraction and coal-fired power generation is a topic that has gained urgency in recent years at both the European and the Czech national level.
The Association for International Affairs (AMO) and the EurActiv.cz news portal organized a round table on "Climate Policy: Challenges for the Ústí nad Labem Region" in Ústí nad Labem in June 2017 as part of the "Empowering Youth and Regions in the European Parliament" project . The purpose of the discussion was to link the debate on the impacts of energy transformation on coal-fueled regions at the European, national and regional levels.
Recommendations for European policy makers
- Respect the specific conditions in individual regions: The European Union has adopted its climate-energy objectives, which it has also presented as global commitments through the Paris Climate Change Agreement. EU Member States have to respect these commitments. At the same time, however, attention has to be paid to the fact that countries and regions differ in geographic and socio-economic conditions, and their transition to a low-carbon economy will proceed at a different pace.
- The transformation of industrial regions needs support: At the European level, a fund should be created in the next budgetary period to support the transformation of traditional industrial sites.
- Promoting research, development and innovation: In addition to the social and financial aspect, the European Commission's initiative should also support science, research, innovation and technology development.
Recommendations for the Czech Government
- The Usti region needs assurance about brown coal mining: The development of the Usti Region has been influenced by uncertainty about the definitive conclusion of the debate on mining limits. The decision regarding the limits would give the region a firm starting point from which the transformation could unfold.
- The future of the region must also be discussed with the public: in January 2017, the Government approved the Strategic Framework for Economic Restructuring of the Ústecký, Moravskoslezský and Karlovarský Regions. A follow-up action plan with measures was drafted, which will be updated annually. The measures proposed in these updates should be discussed with the public, which should have the opportunity to influence the region's development.
- Cohesion policy funds need to be better targeted: The government should seek to maintain the national envelope within the European Cohesion Policy beyond 2020. The funds should be better targeted in the next programming period according to the specific needs of each region, Given that a decline in cohesion policy can be expected after 2020, the region and government must be able to present a clear vision for the development of the region so that it is clear that Structural Fund funding will be used efficiently.
- The Czech Republic can also use other available means: In addition to the European Structural Funds, the European Globalization Adjustment Fund (EGF) is currently also available to help workers who were made redundant as a result of major structural changes. Between 2014 and 2020, EUR 150 million is available under this program annually.
- Fees for extracted minerals should be available to the region: The Fee for extracted minerals in the Czech Republic, according to some opinions, is set too low. In addition, there was a consensus during the debate that the funding received was too small for the affected regions. Funds should be more evenly distributed between the state budget, regional budgets and municipal budgets.
Recommendations for stakeholders in the Ústí Region
- The Usti region needs a vision for the future: Without a clearly formulated strategy, it will be more difficult to obtain funding from the European Structural Funds in the next programming period. Regions, including the Ústecký Region, should therefore be able to define opportunities for successful development. Such vision should include, among other things, specific projects aimed at the transition to clean and safe energy use. It is also necessary to engage wider professional and non-professional public in the preparation of this vision, which is a task for business associations and civic organizations.
- Regional cohesion is needed to create such a vision: The precondition for the future success of the region is cohesion across political parties and economic sectors that will enable overcome specific interests and ensure a stronger position for the region in central or European level negotiations. At the same time, it would help the reion if it could erase the reputation of the region where there is abuse of public funds.
- Support to education is the key: Significant problems include the outflow of young people from the Ústí nad Labem Region. Therefore, the development of the University of Jan Evangelista Purkyně in Ústí nad Labem and specialized universities will play a crucial role in the region's future. They should provide sufficient expertise and motivate young people to remain in the region. At the same time, however, it is also necessary to improve the quality of lower stages of education. Schools development can also play a positive role for coal-mining companies that demonstrate their social responsibility through financial support to education.
- Pursue research, development and innovation: Usti Region could be inspired by the example of German regions where restructuring included the establishment of innovation centers. Examples include the Inovationsregion Rheinland and the Inovationsregion Lausitz.
- Institutions, cities and municipalities should lead by example: Institutions should serve as an example for the public in the transition to a low carbon economy and make commitments to ecological behavior. One example is the introduction of energy management. For smaller cities and towns and citizens, service and advice should be provided by an active regional energy agency.
- The Region has to deal with the requirements arising from the BAT conclusions: One of the key issues at the level of the Ústí region is the way in which the regional authority and the operators will approach the obligations resulting from the new BAT conclusions for large combustion sources. In 2017, they were approved by the European Commission and currently are not met by most of the large combustion sources in the Ústí nad Labem Region. However, with a careful justification, a temporary exemption may be granted for a narrowly defined case where there is evidence that there is no significant environmental pollution and that the achievement of BAT-related levels would lead to costs that would not be proportionate to the environmental benefits.
- To address the health status of the population: It is necessary to address the health status of the population living in the foothill districts in order to find out why there are significant differences in the health indicators compared with indicators of the population at the national level.
- Take into account the health consequences of the polluted environment. For example, in the 1970s and 1980s, more babies with low birth weight were born in foothill districts. This will lead to increased incidence of cardiovascular disease and grade 2 diabetes a functional deficiency after 2020.
Opportunities for the Ústí Region
- Extraction of lithium and other strategically important raw materials in the Krusne hory Mountains, their processing and production of final products, such as batteries suitable for use in electric vehicles.
- Infrastructure for the testing and development of autonomous mobility: the provision of motorway between Ústí nad Labem and Dresden in cooperation with the Free State of Saxony; Building a test polygon for autonomous cars near Ústí nad Labem.
- Construction of the terminal on the planned high-speed rail route between Prague and Dresden.
- Construction of a tunnel connecting the city district of Ústí nad Labem with the D8 motorway and motorway interconnections between Ústí nad Labem, Děčín and Teplice.
- Construction of a strategic industrial zone in the Komořany area.
- Development of small business and traditional crafts, fruit growing and winemaking, for which support can also be obtained from EU agricultural funds.
Among the panelists were the member of the European Parliament Stanislav Polčák (STAN, EPP), Václav Štěrba from the Department for the Efficient Use of Natural Resources of the General Secretariat of the European Commission, Gabriela Nekolová, Regional Representative of the Government Prosecutor for the Ústecký, Moravskoslezský and Karlovarský Region, Vladimír Vlk, counsel to the Czech Minister of Industry and Trade, and Miroslav Andrt (CSSD) member of the Usti Region and Chairman of the Committee on the environment, agriculture and rural development. Other attendees included representatives of the Ústí nad Labem Region and its municipalities, representatives of private companies, non-governmental organizations and academics.