Michał Gramatyka, Former Vice-President of the Silesia Region
One of the biggest challenges facing the Silesia region in Central Europe is the need to restructure the region’s approach to coal and its use. This requires not only changing the profile of the voivodeship, the administrative area in question, but also the gradual replacement of traditional economic sectors with more innovative ones. To increase competitiveness, the voivodeship needs to be able to undertake a long-term modernisation plan. Without governmental support, this will not be possible, as the process requires consistent and continuous work on economic and social issues.
The current binding governmental document on this area of work is ‘Programme for Bituminous Coal Mining Sector in Poland’, approved by the Council of Ministers in January 2018. The programme features an outline for creating conditions that will support transforming the bituminous coal mining sector and make it profitable, efficient and modern. Successfully executing the programme will have an impact on the people in the region, the employees of the coal mining companies and, in particular, their families.
Restructuring the traditional sectors of the region is not enough
To minimise the potential negative impacts of the restructuring, specific actions need to be undertaken to analyse and develop the employee competencies in the mining industry. Plans for establishing an employee competence database have already been set in motion and the possibility of financing instruments of employment activation and a programme tailored to professional adaptation has been discussed.
But restructuring the traditional sectors of the region is not enough. We also need to facilitate and support the development of new economic activities, level the negative impacts of mining, develop human and social capital and increase the overall quality of life in the region. Moreover, we need to support cooperation between the scientific institutions and companies focused on research and development, find ways to stop ‘brain drain’ of young people to metropolitan areas and improve the quality of public spaces.
Financing this type of regional modernisation requires legal changes at national level. Private resources should be mobilised and combined effectively with public sources of funding at regional, national and EU level. Combining regulatory changes with the appropriate public sector financial support will guarantee that the Silesia region can achieve a permanent increase when it comes to the competitiveness of its economy and the improvement of quality of life while limiting the social costs inevitably associated with this type of change and restructuring.
In recent years, the Management Board of the Silesia region has consistently worked towards the social and economic transformation of the region. Managing the largest Regional Operational Programme within the European Union, with a total value of €3.5bn, the Board’s activities are discernibly comprehensive in nature. In the framework of this regional programme, over €830m – almost 25% of the resources – was devoted to the support of low-carbon economy, renewable energy sources and energy efficiency. Almost €1.5bn was earmarked for the support of innovation, entrepreneurship, education, social rejuvenation, infrastructural revitalisation and developing the labour market.
In March 2018, the catalogue of regional smart specialisations was expanded so that they might be better suited to fulfilling their function as a flywheel for our economy. Aside from medicine, energetics, IT and communication technologies, new areas of development include green economy, mobility as well as creative and emerging industries.
The Silesia region is committed to accomplishing the European Commission’s initiative to support Europe’ mining regions
The Board also supports the professional activation of the unemployed and professionally passive and works on mitigating the effects of company restructuring. Given the ongoing economic transformations borne from the rise of globalisation and technological development, it is important that employees are fully equipped with the tools needed for re-skilling themselves. This is why actions aimed at improving the situation of employees and jobseekers through support, vocational education and opportunities for professional qualifications have been carried out.
The Silesia region is committed to accomplishing the European Commission’s initiative to support Europe’ mining regions. Since its inauguration last year, the voivodeship’s local government has actively taken part in actions related to this initiative.
The process of transforming a region is a complex, two-pronged and costly task. To speed up this process, it is necessary to coordinate action at EU, national and regional levels. Formalised legal action in the form of public assistance, regulating property rights in post-mining areas, facilitating investment processes and establishing flexible revitalisation tools will allow us to turn words into reality. To this end, we hope to receive the appropriate support from the government and the European Commission and be optimistic in the outcomes of the new EU budget. We trust that the challenges confronting mining regions will also be acknowledged in the attribution of EU funds.
This article is from Friends of Europe’s discussion paper ‘The regional dimension of climate change: Making the case for a just and innovative transition’, in which we aim to increase awareness of the importance of Europe’s carbon intensive regions in tackling climate change and transforming through disruptive social, economic and innovative leadership.
IMAGE CREDIT: CC/Bigstock - Adam88x