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Poland to support, develop industrial, coal mining region

Poland’s government, at its first ever session outside Warsaw, approved a multi-billion-euro plan on Tuesday to stimulate the coal-mining region of Silesia’s industry and job market.

Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz convened the weekly Cabinet session in the southern city of Katowice to stress her government’s concern for the key industrial region. Its people complain of being laid off and neglected as coal mines are being closed or are struggling to survive, and unemployment reaches 20 percent.

Poland is Europe’s major producer and user of coal, with most of its energy based on the fossil fuel.

The visit was part of the ruling team’s electoral campaign before fall general elections in which the opposition is favored.

The “Silesia 2.0” plan calls, among others things, for tax exemptions for industries using coal and loans for modernizing Ukraine’s coal-based power plants, with the aim of increasing demand for Polish coal. There is also funding for developing technologies to turn coal into gas and to lower carbon emissions, and for developing road and rail infrastructure.

“The point is to give a strong impulse for the region that is meant to be the heart of Poland’s industry,” Kopacz said.

The plan is worth about 25 billion zlotys (6 billion euros, $6.7 billion), to be financed from the EU as well as state and local governments.

“I gave the maximum possible without endangering the (state) budget,” Kopacz said, stressing that “Poland’s energy security rests on Polish coal.”

The plan seems to go against the global tendency to curb the production and use of black coal as a way of fighting pollution and global warming. But Poland’s economic interests seem to take precedence.

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