by Samuel Furfari – originally published in Factuel in French. Republished here in English translation with permission of the author.
According to Ursula von der Leyen in her State of the Union address to the European Parliament on 13 September, the EU is doing well thanks to the Green Deal. But millions of people can no longer afford to pay for their energy. But before we get back to energy, a few words about Europe’s migration crisis. While the small Italian island of Lampedusa had to take in 7,000 migrants in 48 hours – and not climate refugees, as a colleague pointed out to me – Poland complained that the Commission President did not want to see the reality of the problem. Responding to the speech, Polish European Affairs Minister Szymon Szynkowski vel Sęk said: “I am convinced that there is a certain reluctance on the part of European leaders and European institutions to notice the problems that plague the EU today.”
We know that relations between the Polish government and the European Commission are not harmonious, as ideological differences clash. In the area of migration, it is clear that Poland does not intend to follow Brussels’s instructions to take on migrants. But tensions have also been evident for some time in the field of energy.
The Polish workshop destroyed by alchemy
Poland can be considered the EU’s main workshop for the production of automotive components, which are then assembled by the major manufacturers in their assembly plants. A large number of SMEs in the mechanical sector have specialized in the production of components for our cars. The electric car poses a serious threat to Poland’s manufacturing industry. An electric motor is infinitely simpler than a combustion engine and requires less labor to produce; in addition, electric vehicles do not need a gearbox or clutch, and even braking is simpler because the engine brake is powerful. It is understandable that Poles are strongly opposed to the obligation to stop selling combustion engine vehicles by 2035, as this will throw thousands of workers who had secure and well-paid jobs in the automotive sector out on the street.
For a while, Germany joined Italy and Poland in opposing this strange decision. Then the first vice-president of the European Commission, the Dutchman Frans Timmermans, pulled out his green environmental magician’s hat and came up with a solution to convince Germany: don’t worry, we will allow internal combustion vehicles to run on electric fuels. E-fuels that do not exist and will never be economical because they have to be made from hydrogen produced from wind and solar photovoltaic energy and CO₂. At the moment, wind energy produces only 2.2% of the primary energy consumed in the EU, but it is promised that there will be so much that it will be enough to produce 100% green electricity and, in addition, synthetic fuels … by 2035 Chemistry forbids such utopias, but we in Brussels-Strasbourg don’t care. Neither does Berlin, and it’s even stranger in the country where the chemical industry was born. In short, the green alchemist who wants to turn life’s escape into energy – CO₂ – has managed to convince Berlin. Left to their own devices, Italy and Poland have therefore been unable to resist the mistake that will destroy the automotive sector, the sector that the United States and China envy us.
After the failure of Soviet socialism, an ideology imposed by force on the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, they embraced the market economy without reservation. Poland is a good example. Since joining the EU, Eurostat data show that Poland’s growth rate has hovered around 5%, almost double that of the EU-27.
In the car industry, of course, there was no hope of selling the Polski, the Fiat-licensed car produced in Poland. Poland has therefore wisely chosen to become a subcontractor for large companies in the west of the EU. It has managed to organize itself so that its specialized workers produce the parts that German, Italian and French companies assemble in their own country or elsewhere. According to PZPM(the Polish Association of the Automotive Industry), 153,900 people worked in the sector in 2019. However, EU pressure on the automotive sector has reduced this number to 141,400 workers. Similarly, in 2019, Poland produced 434,700 engines, but by 2022 it will only produce 255,100. These cuts of 41% in engine production and 8% in employment are worrying, and it is understandable that the Polish government is very wary and is trying to reverse this trend.
However, Poland has not given up and we have just learned that on 17 July it lodged an appeal with the Court of Justice of the EU (Case C-444/23). The Republic of Poland seeks the full annulment of Regulation (EU) No 2023/851 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 19 April 1985 as regards the strengthening of the CO₂ emission performance standards for new passenger cars and light commercial vehicles, in line with the Union’s climate change objectives. In the alternative, it seeks the partial annulment of that regulation in so far as it relates to the provisions of emission targets for new passenger cars and light commercial vehicles applicable from 1 January 2035, in the event that the Court considers that the pleas put forward do not justify the annulment of the regulation in its entirety.
According to Poland, the EU legislator – the European Parliament and the Council of the EU – infringed Article 192 (2c) of the Lisbon Treaty, which requires unanimity in the Council, because the contested decision ‘ significantly affects a Member State’s choice between different energies sources and the general structure of its energy supply ‘.
Poland intends to defend the well-being of its people
Poland believes that this regulation will have a significant impact on the automotive industry as well as on companies in related sectors, and that the European legislator has therefore failed to fulfill its obligation to promote the well-being of the people of the Union, its obligation to promote social justice, to work for sustainable economic development and to promote economic cohesion, social and territorial solidarity and solidarity between Member States. Warsaw also believes that the legislator has failed to take into account the requirements of promoting a high level of employment and combating social exclusion (Article 9 of the Treaty) and the prohibition of discrimination on the grounds of wealth. The argument makes sense, because sustainable development is not just about promoting ecology, but also about ensuring the well-being of society and economic growth. In fact, ‘sustainable’ is the qualifier for ‘development’, although environmentalists have managed to erase the word ‘development’ by replacing the term ‘sustainable development’ with the noun ‘sustainability’. The Polish government disagrees.
Green policy is disproportionate
It considers that the principle of proportionality has not been taken into account because the resulting disadvantages, in particular the costs, are manifestly disproportionate to the objectives pursued. According to Poland, the costs of adapting the EU economy and society to the stricter standards for the reduction of CO₂ emissions laid down in the contested regulation are significantly higher than the resulting benefits. For Poland, the contested regulation imposes a disproportionate burden on European citizens, in particular the most disadvantaged, and on the European car industry, due to the transition to zero-emission mobility. The contested regulation is likely to have serious negative effects on the European car industry, social exclusion, exclusion of the poorest from means of transport,
Carbon market manipulation
Poland also accuses the Council and the European Parliament for failing to provide a sufficient impact assessment of this Regulation (an obligation for all legislative texts presented by the European Commission). It considers that the assessment of the impact of the obligations and objectives set out in the Regulation of individual Member States is fundamentally flawed. Furthermore, Warsaw believes that insufficient account has been taken of the available scientific and technical data, the potential benefits and costs of an activity or its cessation, as well as the economic and social development of the Union as a whole and the balanced development of its regions. In short, this regulation was adopted on an ideological basis which Poland rejects.
At the same time, the Polish government is challenging the number of CO₂ allowances to be placed in the carbon market stability reserve until 2030 in order to artificially increase the price per ton of CO₂. Again, according to the Polish government, the case is based on a violation of Article 192.2c. It argues that this carbon market-manipulating reserve could eliminate jobs in the mining sector, leading to ‘greater social inequality between Member States and increased social exclusion’. Poland’s car sector is crucial, but its coal and therefore mining sector is even more, as the country generates around 70% of its electricity from coal, which is mainly mined in Silesia.
It is unlikely that such an institutional imbroglio over non-compliance with the legal basis of this regulation will be resolved before the European elections on 9 June 2024. But whether Poland loses the case or not, there is no doubt that the Poles will take it into account when they vote.
The Brussels-Strasbourg specialized press deciphered the speech of the President of the European Commission before the European Parliament as her candidacy for re-election. However, the appointment of the President of the European Commission is decided by the Member States. The Italian government, abandoned in the face of migrants, and the Polish government, which will not accept the destruction of its car industry, will know who not to vote for.
Prof. Samuel Furfari’s books available on Amazon.