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19.3.2.  EU coal supply

    Coal supply was essential for European reconstruction and economic growth at the time of creation of the European Coal and Steel Community. Regular supply of coal to the common market was the prime objective of the ECSC Treaty [see section 2.1]. Chapter IV of the Treaty outlined measures to be taken in the event of shortage, notably through the sharing out of ECSC resources among the industries covered by its jurisdiction; but such a situation never developed. On the contrary, as mentioned above, Community coal, which played the lead role on the energy stage in the1950s, was relegated by the beginning of the 1960s to a supporting one by the newcomer to the scene, oil, and its demand declined sharply. Despite the great increase in electricity prices since the two oil shocks of the 1970s, the majority of Community mines were still not competitive and demand for coal continued to decline.

    Coal is the most abundant non-renewable energy source available and will continue to play a very important role as a regulator of the Union's energy market, particularly in the generation of energy. In any case, the European Union does not face a problem in coal supply, both as far as indigenous resources are concerned, which are abundant, and imports from several third countries, which are more competitive. After the expiration of the ECSC Treaty in July 2002, the common commercial policy of the EC covers the coal products [see chapter 23]. Any imported coal released for free movement in a Member State circulates freely in the European Union. However, there is Union surveillance of imports of hard coal originating in third countries [Regulation 405/2003]. The monitoring system entails the provision by the Member States of information concerning their imports of hard coal, including the prices charged and the breakdown of hard coal imports between electricity production and use in the European steel industry.

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