Poland will not comply with EU top court ruling on Turow, PM says

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, speaks on his arrival at a European Council meeting in Brussels, 24 May 2021. [Copyright: European Union]

Poland will not comply with the ruling of the European Union’s top court, which ordered Warsaw to immediately stop mining in the Turów lignite mine on the border with the Czech Republic, Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said on Monday (24 May).

Last Friday, the European Court of Justice said Poland had to immediately stop mining at the Turów complex operated by state-run PGE, handing a win to the Czech government which had sought an order to stop mining operations there.

“I met with Czech Prime Minister Babis, because we have a very difficult situation linked to the wrong and so unjust ruling of the European Court of Justice,” Morawiecki told reporters before an EU summit in Brussels.

“I can once more underline that we are of course not going to stop mining, not stop the operation of the power plant, it is obvious because a stoppage would surely mean an ecological disaster and an energy disaster and, consequently huge social problems,” Morawiecki said.

“We will try to show good will, but only to the extent that we can continue to operate the power plant and the lignate mine Turów,” he said.

EU court orders immediate halt to Turów mine in Poland

Mining at the contested Polish open-pit mine near Turów must stop immediately, the European Court of Justice ruled on Friday (21 May) following a complaint lodged by the Czech Republic.

The Czech Republic filed a lawsuit in February calling for a halt to activities at the mine, located near the Czech and German borders, saying Warsaw had violated EU law by extending mining at Turow until 2026.

The Turów mine has been accused of draining water supplies in Czechia and risking subsidence in Germany, causing tensions around the border.

In its ruling, the Court ordered the mine’s closure as an interim measure because it estimated that not doing so would risk causing “serious and irreparable harm to the interests of the applicant”.

The company that runs the mine, state-owned PGE, has warned that an abrupt shutdown would cost thousands of jobs. Turów supplies lignite, or brown coal, to a nearby electricity plant, which provides around 5% of Poland’s power and a temporary closure would endanger the country’s energy security, Warsaw argues.

Others have warned that the continuation of the Turów mine could actually damage the energy transition. The European Commission has warned that a continuation of activity there beyond 2030 would mean the region would lose out on EU funds allocated for the green transition.

Turow: the Polish coal mine at the centre of regional tensions

Tensions have mounted at the Polish, Czech and German border over a coal mine in Poland that Prague says is contaminating its water supplies and has been operating illegally for over a year.

On Monday, the Czech government said it was ready to talk with Poland about the Turów lignite mine.

“We are ready for talks, we have been saying it for several years, unfortunately there had to be this ruling, I am glad that the court ruled in our favor,” Environment Minister Richard Brabec said at a televised briefing.

He said Czech and Polish officials were already in talks, with the aim of having something ready for both prime ministers who are meeting in Brussels at a European Council session which started on Monday.

[Edited by Frédéric Simon]

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