Poland, Czechia ink deal on Turow mineReading Time: 2 minutes
Czechia and Poland signed an agreement regarding the environmentally damaging lignite mine in Turow, western Poland, on Thursday. Under the deal, Poland will contribute EUR 45 million towards new infrastructure in Czech regions over the border from the facility, and also monitor the mine, build groundwater barriers and establish a ‘project fund’.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said the Turow mine and power plant – near the country’s tri-border with Czechia and Germany – will continue to operate “without obstacles”. He expressed hope that Czechia will soon withdraw the complaint it lodged about the mine at the European Court of Justice.
The news will have startled Brussels, as earlier in the day an EU court statement had declared Poland’s extension of Turow’s operating permit, without a prior environmental impact report, to have been illegal.
Poland’s legal battle with the EU over Turow began in 2020, when it extended its mining permit by 6 years. Czechia filed a complaint with the European Court of Justice in February 2021, after which Poland extended Turow’s mining license to 2044. In May, the EU’s top court ordered Poland to cease activity at the mine, which is operated by Polish state-run company PGE.
When Poland ignored the request, the court issued a daily fine of EUR 500,000. Poland refused to pay – an unprecedented move from an EU state – and continued to operate Turow, which mines the highly polluting lignite, a cheap form of light-brown coal. Green groups and local residents also claim that the mine causes noise pollution, depletes water, and is causing buildings to sink.
However the recent appointment of Czechia’s new Prime Minister Petr Fiala has offered Poland the prospect of a bilateral reset on Turow, at least. Morawiecki said on Thursday that the agreement had ended a “period of freezing” of otherwise excellent bilateral relations. The Polish premier defiantly added that: “no judge from Luxembourg, no official from Brussels, can dictate to us how we govern ourselves at home, how we govern ourselves in Poland.”
Europe Beyond Coal, a civil group seeking to eliminate coal burning in Europe by 2030 at the latest, was not swayed. The organisation tweeted that “the Czech government has angered local people by accepting EUR 45 million compensation from its Polish counterpart & PGE in return for dropping its lawsuit over Turow coal mine. This deal will not resolve the water crisis in the region.”
Over two-thirds of Poland’s energy comes from coal, however, and Turow produces over 27 million tonnes of brown coal per year, and employs around 3,600 people. Poland’s nationalist government has dismissed the idea of shutting down Turow as “an energy catastrophe”.