Following on from our leak of the EEAG State Aid guidelines, the politics of the debate has gone up to a new level as Germany, France, Italy and the UK come out strongly against playing by EU rules. This confidential letter on the EEAG demands the Commission relax EU rules to allow these governments to set up their own rules on who they are going to subsidise in their industrial sectors.

They ignore the problems we face collectively when common rules are ignored to support the self-interest of a government. This is the ‘economic crisis’ that European citizens are paying for with cuts to their welfare, security and pensions today. The Commission is attempting to prevent governments from excessively subsidising industrial sectors who are allegedly exposed to international competition. The governments instruct the Commission to include “aid in the form of exemptions from regulation or taxation” to protect these energy-intensive sectors. Almost all of these sectors are covered by the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS) and receive generous compensation in the form of free pollution rights. Pollution that citizens in Europe and across the globe pay with their lives and livelihoods.

Numerous studies including an official investigation by the European Commission conclude that there is ‘no evidence’ of carbon leakage yet these companies still hold governments and taxpayers to ransom. If there is a need to support these sectors then these governments have to come forward with fresh evidence that there is a real and serious threat to justify another huge subsidy. Exempting these polluters from paying the costs of the damage they are causing cannot be justified without it.

In essence this is turning into the biggest test of democracy in Europe since the Suffragette movement gave women the vote. It is about in whose interest our governments govern – us the people or their favourite companies? This is one fight the Commission has to win or we all lose.

The Commission is scheduled to launch the revised State Aid guidelines on 9 April.