Wednesday

8th Feb 2023

Czech Republic and Poland clash at EU top court over coal mine

  • The Czech Republic and Poland have held intense negotiations, but talks have failed to bring a solution after 18 attempts (Photo: Bohdan Melekh)
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Officials from the Czech Republic and Poland met on Tuesday (9 November) in Luxembourg for the first hearing at the European Court of Justice (ECJ) on the controversial extraction activities at the coal mine in Turów, located close to the German and Czech border.

The encounter comes after the two neighbouring countries failed to reach an agreement that could have led to the withdrawal of the lawsuit against Poland.

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In February, Prague filed a complaint against Poland for expanding the life of this open-pit coal mine and demanded its immediate closure, arguing that it is lowering ground water supplies for nearby communities and contributing to air pollution.

This is the first time in the EU's history where one member state sues another for environmental reasons.

Despite the ongoing legal action against Poland, Warsaw decided in May to extend the life of the Turów coal mine until 2044 without carrying out an environmental impact assessment.

Likewise, it also refused to the temporary suspension of activities - as requested by the EU's top court.

As a result, the EU court in September ordered Poland to pay a €500,000-per-day fine for failing to comply with interim measures. But Poland has voiced reluctance to pay.

Polish prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki argued that shutting down the mine would cost hundreds of jobs and cause disruption of domestic power.

The Turów power station provides around five percent of Poland's power, supplying electricity to some 2.3m households, according to the mine operator, state-owned Polish energy group (PGE).

The Czech Republic and Poland have held intense negotiations during the last months to try "to settle the dispute amicably," but talks have failed to find a solution after 18 attempts.

Although most of the conditions are agreed, Warsaw and Prague have been unable to agree over the validity of the deal.

Prague would like the arrangements with Poland to last as long as possible, mainly because such deal would end all current procedures and establish conditions to make sure no legal action can be brought against Poland before the EU's top court.

Poland, for its part, wants to be free to end the contract with a two-year period of notice.

Under the draft, seen by EUobserver, Poland would agree to pay €50m in compensation to "fully address the impacts of exploitation at the Turów mine on the territory of the Czech Republic" .

However, the Czech coalition 'Together for Water' said that the leaked version of the Turów agreement lacks the basic requirements to protect drinking water supplies and the environment.

"Worse than no agreement is a bad agreement," warned Anna Kšírová, a member of the local NGO Rodiče za klima Liberec.

The European Commission has already sent the first call for payment to Poland, but it is expected to continue doing so "at regular intervals until compliance with the interim measures order by the court," a spokesperson told EUobserver.

EU orders Poland to pay €70m in fines

The case is one of many disputes between the EU and Poland's ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, which have started to cost money for Warsaw.

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