08 June 2021
European Commission urged to join Turów mine court case to protect rule of law
Prague, 8 June 2021 – The European Commission has just two days left to make a needed intervention in the dispute between the Czech Republic and Poland over illegal, damaging operations at the Turów coal mine. The case escalated on Monday afternoon, when the Czech government decided to request the Court of Justice of the European Union to fine Poland five million Euros a day for refusing to temporarily halt operations at the mine while the court processes the case against it. An estimated 40-50 million Euro will also be requested by the Czech government to rebuild water supplies in the Czech regions impacted by Turów as part of an out-of-court settlement that, if agreed, could set a dangerous precedent for countries to simply buy their way out of EU lawbreaking according to campaigning organisations.
“This dispute between the Polish and Czech governments underscores Commissioner Sinkevičius’ responsibility to enforce EU law on behalf of citizens, and in this case ensure Poland lives up to its obligation to protect water, people, and the climate,”said Petra Urbanova, Lawyer at Frank Bold.
The European Commission has until 10 June to join the Czech Republic’s court case, and given that the Polish government has refused to comply with the court’s order to temporarily halt operations at Turów, NGOs argue that the Commission can no longer be a passive player on the sidelines.
“While the Polish government is acting recklessly, the European Commission should not be allowing transboundary disputes to get to the stage where member states are forced to go to court,” said Zala Primc, campaigner at Europe Beyond Coal. “In the short term, the Polish government needs to comply with the court’s order and immediately halt destructive mining, while it starts addressing and resolving the underlying issues around Turow’s legality and impacts on water supplies. In the long run, it needs to plan a fair closure of the coal mine and plant by 2030 at the latest.”
Petra Urbanová, Lawyer, Frank Bold (English, Czech)
[email protected], +420 778 777 164
Zala Primc, Campaigner, Europe Beyond Coal (English, Slovene)
[email protected], + 386 (0) 40 981 828
Alastair Clewer, Communications Officer, Europe Beyond Coal
[email protected], +49 176 433 07 185
- The Czech government gave a mandate to the Ministries of Environment and Foreign Affairs to negotiate with Poland on the conditions under which it would be reasonable to withdraw the lawsuit. Such conditions would redress violations of EU law which emerged in the process of issuing the mining license, especially on the environmental impact assessment, and guarantee that damage to Czech water will not occur. The amount of about 40 to 50 million Euros will be conditioned as compensations for building replacement water mains in the impacted Czech regions. https://bit.ly/3ixd8wi
- The mine is located in Poland’s Bogatynia region and is endangering access to safe drinking water for thousands of families on the Czech side of the border and causing subsidence that could damage houses around the German city of Zittau https://bit.ly/3uoPO7s. English summary: https://bit.ly/2GTebWO.
PGE plans to extend the mine to within 70 metres of the Czech border in 2022. A study highlighting the negative impacts the mine is having on the Czech side https://bit.ly/2NSEgbR
- Since 31 April 2020, the Turów mine has operated under a six-year mining licence extension obtained without public participation and a proper environmental impact assessment. The mine has therefore worked illegally for a year. The new mining license until 2044 was issued 29 April 2021, another step in a chain of illegal action, as Czech and German stakeholders pointed to numerous flaws in the process of the transboundary environmental process. https://bit.ly/3gfVzOI
- The European Commission issued a reasoned opinion confirming the process for extending Turów’s licence breached EU laws, but has not taken any further action: https://bit.ly/2TTE8w5
Europe Beyond Coal is an alliance of civil society groups working to catalyse the closures of coal mines and power plants, prevent the building of any new coal projects and hasten the just transition to clean, renewable energy and energy efficiency. Our groups are devoting their time, energy and resources to this independent campaign to make Europe coal free by 2030 or sooner. www.beyond-coal.eu