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Polish report
by Euro Reporter
2012-04-25 07:58:02
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Poland to bring back border checks for Euro 2012

Poland will reintroduce border controls on its frontiers with fellow European Union nations during the 2012 European football championship, Interior Minister Jacek Cichocki said on Monday. Cichocki said spot checks would be in place from June 4, four days before the tournament kicks off, and end on July 1, the date of the final in co-host Ukraine. Border controls were dropped in 2007 when Poland joined Europe's travel-smoothing Schengen zone, which now comprises 26 countries, including several outside the EU.

Schengen members can suspend the free flow of travellers in certain circumstances, notably when large numbers are expected to flood in. Germany took such a step when it hosted the World Cup in 2006, a move followed at Euro 2008 in Austria and Switzerland. Poland shares borders with four fellow Schengen and EU members: Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Lithuania. Adding an extra layer of complexity at Euro 2012 is the fact that fellow host Ukraine lies on the other side of the EU's tightly-controlled eastern rim.

Ex-communist Poland joined the EU in 2004 and its border controls with former Soviet neighbour Ukraine were further beefed up when it entered the Schengen zone. That means Polish and EU authorities have to work out how to cope with huge numbers of fans criss-crossing the bloc's border during Europe's showcase football tournament. The aim is keep border crossings as fluid as possible while also ensuring that EU entry and security rules are respected - and reimposing internal Schengen checks is seen as a trade-off for softer controls in the external border with Ukraine.


Poland's dependence on coal

Poland has the fastest-growing economy in the European Union and the power that drives it comes from the dirtiest of fossil fuels, coal. How can the country cut its dependence on this polluting source of energy? Coal produces around 93% of Poland's electricity and the industry employs more than 100,000 people. It's a cheap way to produce energy but it provides an enormous headache for any government trying to maintain economic growth and also meet ever-stricter EU greenhouse gas emission targets. Much of that power - around one-fifth of the country's electricity - is produced from just one plant, Elektrownia Belchatow, in central Poland.

It is Europe's largest thermal power plant and its biggest polluter, emitting the equivalent of close to 39 million tonnes of CO2 last year, a rise of 31% from 2010 thanks to the commissioning of a new unit in September. It burns lignite, also known as brown coal, the cheapest fossil fuel, which produces energy at half the cost of hard coal and a quarter the cost of natural gas.  The open cast mines that fuel the plant are so large they could accommodate small towns. The bucket wheel excavators that dig out the lignite are the height of 30-storey tower blocks.

The company which owns the plant, Polska Grupa Energetyczna (PGE), believes, despite the high CO2 emissions, it will be cost-effective for another 30 years.  But PGE knows it has to reduce its dependence on coal if it is to remain profitable. The company plans to invest up to $104bn (£64bn) from 2012 to 2035 to create a diversified power generation structure. It wants to reduce the use of coal and lignite in its plants from 94% now to 38% by 2035.  That should reduce the amount of CO2 the company's plants emit from 1.08 tonnes per megawatt hour (MWh) to 0.27 tonnes/MWh. Coal would be replaced with nuclear power, natural gas and renewable energy sources.


Poland says ETS reform could bankrupt its industry

A European Commission plan to boost the carbon market is unfeasible and could bankrupt Polish companies, Poland's environment minister said on Thursday. European Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard announced a review of the auctioning profile for the EU's Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), which could limit the number of allowances available and help tackle a glut that has kicked the market to record lows. EU ministers said there was widespread support for action, but Poland, which is heavily reliant on carbon-intensive coal, is worried about the rising cost of offsetting emissions.

Asked what impact the Commission's proposal would have on Poland, the nation's Environment Minister Marcin Korolec told Reuters: "Bankruptcy of companies." He said the EU executive should not be considering taking "administrative decisions" that would increase power prices in times of economic austerity. "I don't think we have a mandate to artificially increase the price of electricity in times of crisis, in times of austerity measures, higher unemployment, etcetera," Korolec said.

"We simply do not have a mandate for manipulation in the market mechanisms," he said. "I think you can ask some countries which are in extremely difficult economic situations what their position on that is." Korolec said the proposal looked unfeasible, although he said he was waiting for more details. A lunchtime debate at the informal council on the ETS was inconclusive, he said. "This discussion today was completely preliminary because we don't have papers, documents to study, we have just a vague description about the idea, and I am not sure it is legally feasible and economically viable."

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