Poland and Czechia strike deal on compensation for Turow mine expansion

Poland and Czechia strike deal on compensation for Turow mine expansion
The Czech Republic says the open-cast lignite mine in Turow is having a damaging impact on groundwater and air quality.
By Wojciech Kosc in Warsaw February 3, 2022

Poland and the Czech Republic struck an agreement on February 3 on the open-cast lignite mine in Turow, which the Czech side said is having a damaging impact on groundwater and air quality.

The agreement, which is expected to lead to the Czechs’ withdrawing their complaint about Turow from the Court of Justice of the European Uniony, ends a bitter spat between the two Visegrad Group partners.

In line with the agreement, Poland agreed to pay Czechia €35mn in compensation, build infrastructure to stop drainage of water as well as work towards reducing air pollution and noise.

The two sides also agreed to a five-year period of oversight to make sure the terms of the deal are met. An additional €10mn will be paid by a foundation of Polish mining company PGE.

“It is an enormous success removing a big obstacle to relations between Poland and the Czech Republic,” Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala told a news conference in Prague.

The Polish PM Mateusz Morawiecki struck a similar note, saying that the agreement is a “new chapter” in mutual relations. The PM underlined that Poland had never agreed to close the mine, as it would result in the closure of the nearby power plant – which the mine feeds lignite to – and severe disruption of Poland’s power grid.

Poland and Czechia have been at loggerheads over the mine since 2019. Prague has argued that Poland expanded the mine in breach of the EU’s environmental laws, especially the environmental impact directive, by not consulting properly with them.

The Czechs’ complaints centred on the mine’s draining water resources on the Czech side of the border as well as contributing to air pollution and lowering the quality of life because of noise.

Czechia sued Poland in the Court of Justice of the European Union over the mine’s impact and secured an order from the court, telling Poland to pay €500,000 for each day of the mine’s operations.

Poland has refused to pay but will have to do so even now the agreement has been reached.

The two sides intensified talks recently and the deal appeared imminent early on February 3 following Polish PM Mateusz Morawiecki’s trip to Prague.

The announcement of the deal coincided with an opinion by the CJEU that said Poland did breach EU law by extending Turow’s license without a diligent enough environmental impact assessment.

The CJEU is expected to rule on the Turow case this spring.

Environmental organisations criticized the agreement as unrealistic and clouding the outlook for the mine to close anytime soon.

“The only way forward at Turow is for the Polish government to remedy its legal and environmental wrongdoings, halt the expansion of the mine, and front up to workers, and people across the region about the reality that Turow will close before 2030,” said Maria Wittels, an environmental campaigner.

“The agreement lacks key elements the region needs in terms of setting an appropriate date for closing the Turow energy complex using EU funds and [thus] starting the transformation,” environmental NGOs said.