Czech Republic files EU lawsuit against Poland over Turow border mine

The Czech Republic claims Poland has violated EU law by extending the mining, and demands that the mining be halted

ČTK

Written by ČTK
Published on 27.02.2021 09:36 (updated on 27.02.2021)

The Czech Republic has filed a lawsuit with the European Court of Justice against Poland over the extension of mining at Turow lignite mine, the Environment Ministry announced in a press release today. The mine is situated near the Czech border.

Prague claims Warsaw is violating EU law by extending the mining. In the lawsuit, it also demands that the mining be halted until the EU court makes decision.

The ministry wrote that the Czech Republic has asked the European Court to deal with the lawsuit preferentially, considering the mining impacts on the inhabitants of the bordering Liberec Region in north Bohemia.

The Polish Climate and Environment Ministry expressed surprise in reaction to the Czech government's decision to sue Poland over the Turow mine.

"During the recent visit by the Czech government's delegation to Warsaw, it was possible to assume that that there was a chance for an amicable settlement of the dispute," ministry spokesman Aleksander Brzózka told CTK.

On Monday, the Czech government approved the proposal to file the suit. Environmental organisations welcomed the step.

"A direct legal action against another EU country is really a last resort. Such a situation has occurred only a few times during the European Union's existence. This is why it was necessary not only to lead intensive talks on a diplomatic level before the lawsuit, but also submit a suggestion to the European Commission asking it to assess the legal action reasons, in which the EC accepted the Czech Republic's arguments to a high extent eventually," Environment Minister Richard Brabec (ANO) said today.

The lawsuit is necessary at the moment in order to protect Czech citizens, the Ministry claims, as Poland has not met the Czech Republic's demands in connection with the environmental protection at the Czech part of the border.

"We will naturally continue talks with Poland, but the current mining in Turow is unlawful. Its continuation already threatens our citizens, our water, our environment. This is also why we at the same time asked the European Court of Justice to suspend the mining until its decision on the lawsuit," Brabec added.

The Turow mine, a dominant employer on the Polish side of the border, supplies coal mainly to the nearby Turow plant. PGE Group (Polska Grupa Energetyczna), which owns both the mine and the power plant, plans to continue mining at the location until 2044. The Polish Climate Ministry extended the PGE's mining licence by another six years last March, despite the Czech Republic's protests. Without this, it would have expired in April.

PGE wants to extend the Turow mine so that it reaches up to 30 square kilometers and the mining would reach depths of up to 330 meters under the surrounding ground.

The inhabitants of the border localities of the Liberec Region in the Czech Republic and Saxony in Germany have been protesting against the Turow mine extension. They fear the loss of drinking water as well as increased noise, dust concentration, and erosion.

In mid-December, the European Commission partly agreed with the Czech Republic in the dispute. It said Poland had wrongly assessed the environmental impact of the mine and insufficiently informed neighboring countries about its intentions.

The Liberec Region, bordering on Turow, also supports the lawsuit, its representatives said previously.

The Turow mine and power plant cover 8 percent of electricity supplies in Poland, the server Business Insider writes.

Environmentalists have welcomed the government's decision to sue Poland over the Turow mine extension.