Poland and the Czech Republic reached an agreement on February 3 on the Turow open-pit lignite mine, which the Czech side says has a detrimental impact on groundwater and air quality.
The agreement, which should lead to the Czechs withdrawing their complaint against Turow to the Court of Justice of the European Union, puts an end to a bitter dispute between the two partners of the Visegrad group.
In accordance with the agreement, Poland agreed to pay Czechia 35 million euros in compensation, to build infrastructure to stop water drainage as well as to work on reducing air pollution and noise.
The two parties have also agreed to a five-year monitoring period to ensure that the terms of the agreement are adhered to. An additional 10 million euros will be donated by a foundation of the Polish mining company PGE.
“It’s a huge success that removes a big obstacle in relations between Poland and the Czech Republic,” Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala told a press conference in Prague.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki issued a similar note, saying the deal is a “new chapter” in mutual relations. The Prime Minister stressed that Poland had never agreed to close the mine, as it would lead to the closure of the nearby power plant – to which the mine supplies lignite – and a serious disruption of the Polish electricity grid.
Poland and Czechia have been at odds over the mine since 2019. Prague argued that Poland expanded the mine in violation of EU environmental laws, in particular the Environmental Impact Directive, by not consulting them properly.
Czech complaints were that the mine depletes water resources on the Czech side of the border, contributes to air pollution and lowers quality of life due to noise.
Czechia sued Poland in the Court of Justice of the European Union over the impact of the mine and won a court order ordering Poland to pay €500,000 for each day of mining.
Poland refused to pay but will have to do so even now that the deal has been done.
The two sides recently intensified talks and the deal appeared imminent early on February 3 after Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki’s trip to Prague.
The announcement of the deal coincided with an opinion from the CJEU that Poland had breached EU law by extending Turow’s license without a sufficiently diligent environmental impact assessment.
The CJEU is expected to rule on the Turow case this spring.
Environmental organizations have criticized the deal as unrealistic and clouding the prospects for the mine’s imminent closure.
“The only way forward at Turow is for the Polish government to address its legal and environmental wrongdoings, stop the expansion of the mine, and let workers and locals know the reality that Turow will close before 2030,” he said. Maria Wittels, environmental activist.
“The agreement lacks key elements that the region needs to set an appropriate date for the closure of the Turow energy complex using EU funds and [thus] start the transformation,” environmental NGOs said.