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    Foreign NGOs file complaint with EC against Turów lignite mine deal

    Three NGOs have filed a complaint with the European Commission (EC) over a Polish-Czech agreement concerning the Turów lignite mine on the Polish-Czech border.

    In September last year, the European Court of Justice (CJEU) imposed a daily fine of EUR 500,000 on Poland for not implementing its demand to close operations at the Turów mine, which has been the subject of a legal complaint by the Czech Republic, who claimed the mine, which lies close to the Czech-Polish border, damages the environment.

     

    In early February 2022, the case was removed from the CJEU’s registry due to an agreement reached between Warsaw and Prague.

     

    Now, BUND, an environmental NGO from the German state of Saxony, the Uhelna Neighbourhood Association, grouping residents of the Czech municipality, and the Greenpeace Czech Republic have filed a complaint.

     

    In their opinion, a deal struck between Polish and Czech authorities over the mine fails to tackle the negative impacts of mining at the colliery. They claim the environment is still being affected, including groundwater in the Czech Republic, yet Prague has agreed in the deal not to do anything about it for five years.

     

    German daily Welt reported that BUND and its partner NGOs had requested the EC to launch procedures against the agreement for undermining the obligations of a member state. Under the agreement, Poland paid the Czech Republic EUR 45 million and the latter withdrew its complaint against the mine from the CJEU. BUND claimed that by signing the agreement, Prague had agreed to illegal opencast lignite mining at Turów.

     

    However, the Polish government spokesperson said the complaint, “does not involve a formal referral of the case to the CJEU.”

     

    “These organisations are using the general right to inform the EC of reservations about any action of the authorities of a member state, which they believe breaches EU law,” Piotr Mueller explained.

     

    Mueller went on to describe the Turów mine as “a key element of ensuring Poland’s energy security,” a position he said Poland had maintained from the outset of the dispute.

     

    “Recent months have clearly proved this,” he added. “The Polish government was entirely right to defend Polish citizens from the huge losses which would be caused by blocking mining of coal at that colliery.”

     

    The Czech Ministry of environment also defended the agreement with Poland. “It’s a good deal,” Michal Pastvinsky, the Czech commissioner for negotiations with Poland, said, arguing that the deal was the best solution and brought benefits to Czech residents. He added that the restrictions the deal imposed on Poland were more stringent than European law.

     

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