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Just Transition of the Moravian-Silesian Region is important for the economy of Czechia, says Ambassador Edita Hrdá

In the context of Just Transition, Czech Ambassador Edita Hrdá gave a speach today (October 12, 2021) in Brussels at the seminar of the Moravian-Silesian Region organised as part of the European Week of Regions and Cities. You can read the entire speech below.

Dear Governor,
Dear Panellists and Moderators,
Dear Participants,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am glad that I can be here today. At the seminar organised by one of the three Czech Coal Regions, the Moravian-Silesian Region. The Region that needs to go through a substantive transformation from coal mining to new forms of energy and transformed economy. I look forward to hearing more about its plan for transformation later today.

Since the 19th century, the Region has been at the heart of the European industrial development. The development extremely important for Europe and its economy. People living there were the Czechs, the Poles, the Slovaks, the Germans and the Jews. The industrial background, then a synonym for prosperity and employment, attracted other Czechs and Poles from the inland to come and live there. Other nationalities followed such as the Italians, the Romanians, the Greeks. But also the Czechs living in farther territories of the Austrian-Hungarian Monarchy. They all enriched the Region. Not only with their work, but also with their tradition and culture. The place can certainly be called a melting pot of today´s Czechia.

Those living in the Region had to work extremely hard. In heavy industry, in mining, in metallurgy. Technology was developing only gradually. Protection of the social rights came to the fore only during the 20th century. Working in mines several hundred meters below the surface of the Earth, 12 hours a day, six days a week was not a walk through a rosy garden. Extremely hard conditions formed the character of those who live there now. Moravian-Silesians have the reputation of hard, direct and pragmatic individuals. But also the repute of positive folks, not afraid to share, with a strategic vision, devoted patriots.

In the 20th century, the Region was at the heart of the Czech economy. It was privileged for the economic outputs it provided. But it was let alone in the impacts that the heavy industry had on the environment and the health of its inhabitants. The golden years of mining and heavy industry started to slowly shade at the beginning of the year 1990. The Region started to suffer of losing the importance of the heavy industry for the economy, bad reputation, shattered environment, etc. Unemployment, closing down of mines, bad economic perspectives of the Region were regular topics of discussions of politicians in the media. All that in spite of its beautiful natural heritage and its skilled people.

The heavy industry affected all aspects of the life in the Region. There are communities that disappeared due to dropping of the land after the mining activities. The soil is still contaminated in many places. The underground and surface waters are yet polluted. The air in some localities is far from clean.

Despite all the challenges, the story started to turn after the year 2000. It started in the heart of the region, in the City of Ostrava. The City used to be called “Black Ostrava” for its hard coal mines. The change was first inconspicuous. In 1998, a metallurgy plant located over a hard coal mine almost in the very centre of the City of Ostrava closed down. The area, named Dolní oblast Vítkovice, transformed between the years 2004 and 2020 into a progressive business and social park. Among others, thanks to almost 79 million EURO that were invested here from the EU Funds between the years 2014 and 2020.

The European and national money and the ideas that were implemented here have changed the quarter into a unique, world-class place. Thanks to cooperation with a famous Czech architect, it sensitively connects the industrial past of the City with its technological and innovative future. I cannot but recommend a visit - for example at one of the famous music festivals organised in Ostrava each year in July, the Colours of Ostrava.

The results of the investments and the work are visible not only in Ostrava. Until 2020, the Region has invested 2.76 billion EURO of Cohesion funding into its transformation through 8 thousand projects. It will have the opportunity to use even more. The programme LIFE will provide 394.3 million EURO for climate-mitigation measures in the district of the City of Karviná which suffers from heavy depopulation. Other projects are to be implemented from the Just Transition Fund and from other traditional funds of Cohesion Policy.
An important aspect of quality investments is the governance of the Region. Politicians, the community and the administration all work together to succeed. I personally consider this as one of the most important elements of a successful transformation.

We cannot yet speak about a happy end. But we can certainly speak about big steps that have been done. Over more than a decade the region has been working on rewriting its brand of a black, structurally affected, lagging-behind region into a region of the future. A progressive region providing perspective for its people. It happens thanks to the initiatives of the EU, such as the Platform for Coal Regions in Transition, Just Transition, Cohesion Policy or the Green Deal. But it also happens thanks to the own ideas of the people of the Region that are transformed from strategic visions into practice.

The Region may close down its last mine next year. I wish the people there a bright future and I believe it will become one of the economic tigers of Czechia again.