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8 października 2021

No agreement on Turów before the elections in the Czech Republic

Parliamentary elections are underway in the Czech Republic. If the new government is more progressive in the fight against climate change, it may turn out that the Turów mine will close sooner. 

Katarzyna Kubiczek from the Polish Ecological Association EKO-UNIA claims that "if Poland immediately took responsibility for the negative environmental effects that affect water and the environment on the Czech side, the conflict itself, in which the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) has already been involved, would not take place. Unfortunately, PGE stubbornly wanted to avoid the "polluter pays" principle. If an agreement is reached and the Czechs withdraw the complaint, Poland will have to spend considerable funds on preventive measures in the Czech Republic, such as an underground wall to prevent water drainage or a noise screen. In addition, Poland is already forced to pay daily penalties to the European Commission for not complying with the closure of the Turów mine - which Poland has been obliged to do by the CJEU. As a result, Poland has to pay EUR 0.5 million every day to the European Commission, which, contrary to the assurances of the Polish government, will happen by just deducting it from funds Poland is supposed to receive from the EU”.

“Water shortage is one of the main topics in the Czech public sphere. The situation will not change after the elections. The Czech side cares about securing the interests of its inhabitants also after the end of the operation of the opencast mine because - in contrast to the Polish government and PGE - the Czechs have a long-term view of the problem. The Czech Republic will request many conditions and additional payments if the open-pit mine is to come closer to the Czech border as it would significantly increase the risk of water shortages” comments Kuba Gogolewski from the Polish Foundation“ Development YES - Open-pit Mines NO”.

Contrary to what many people think, the penalties imposed by the CJEU will not go to the Czechs but to the common EU budget.

Dominika Bobek from the Polish legal foundation FrankBold reminds: “Poland will have to pay to the European Commission the penalties imposed by the CJEU for failure to comply with the Court's decision on interim measures and to suspend lignite mining in the Turów mine. These penalties will not go to the Czech Republic, they are not any compensation for the Czech side for possible water loss, etc. It is only a financial penalty for failure to comply with the Court's decision to suspend mining in the Turów mine”.

“The penalties will hurt Polish taxpayers, but will they also hurt the Polish government? 18 days have passed since the CJEU ruling, and the fine amounts to approximately PLN 41 million (EUR 9 million). This is almost as much as the commune of Bogatynia receives taxes from the Turów complex annually. The elections in the Czech Republic will not solve the Turów problem if the government does not use this conflict for real transformation - abandoning coal within ten years. Instead of using over PLN 1 billion (EUR 220 million) in EU funds for a just transition, we will pay EU penalties for an unnecessary dispute with the Czech Republic. Instead of receiving support from the EU to build an alternative non-carbon economy in the Zgorzelec region, we “subsidize” the EU ”- emphasizes Radosław Gawlik, president of the EKO-UNIA.

The stubbornness of the PGE and the Polish government regarding Turów means losses for Poland on many fronts. At the same time, neither the government nor the PGE are doing anything to prepare the region for the end of lignite production, which, according to the PGE's plans, is to take place in 2044, so in 23 years. However, this scenario does not have to come true - the future Czech government may apply for the early closure of the Turów mine and power plant also for climate reasons. Finally, the profitability of the Turów complex and the competitiveness of electricity produced from lignite may be determined by the rapidly growing CO2 emission allowances - currently it is almost EUR 65 per ton. Due to the ineffectiveness of negotiators and the stubbornness of the PGE, the energy complex in Bogatynia may be closed for economic reasons. Then the Zgorzelec region will be left without EU funds for transformation, without preparing the society for restructuring and with increasing obligations towards the Czechs and the EU.


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