EU's coal nations win battle in quest for subsidies
BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Europe's coal-mining countries won a key vote for more subsidies in the European Parliament on Tuesday, a win that adds to their lobbying power but carries little legal clout.
Green group politicians opposed the move, saying taxpayers' money should not be wasted on supporting an uncompetitive industry when the European Union should be focusing on creating new jobs in a green economy.
The European Union's executive Commission proposed in July that the coal industry should only get four more years of state aid before this is phased out in 2014 -- the sixth such extension of state aid since 1965.
With thousands of jobs in the balance, Germany has led coal- mining countries in pushing hard for subsidies to be extended until 2018, ahead of a final vote among EU ministers on December 10.
The parliament has no legal influence over that decision, but parliamentarians tried to assert their opinion by voting to allow state aid to continue until December 31, 2018.
They also voted for an increase in the amount of aid granted, with 465 in favor of the parliament's strategy, and 159 against.
"Subsidizing uncompetitive coal mines is a waste of billions of euros of public money, particularly in the context of current pressures on public finances," said Belgian Green politician Philippe Lamberts.
EU sources say coal supporters will use Tuesday's publicity to justify proposing an extension of subsidies to EU ambassadors in the days ahead, paving the way to a win at ministerial level.
(Reporting by Pete Harrison, editing by Rex Merrifield and Anthony Barker)
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