Poland and the Czech Republic on Thursday tamped down their dispute over the environmental impact of a coal mine close to the Czech border.
The Polish government agreed to pay the Czech government 45 million euros in exchange for withdrawing a lawsuit brought by Prague against Warsaw at the Court of Justice of the European Union.
Under the deal, 35 milion euros will be used to analyse and monitor the effects of the mine while the state-owned Polish energy group (PGE) will pay 10 milion euros directly to the affected region.
The settlement also involves the building and testing of an underground wall to protect Czech villages from the effects of the mine.
But local civil society and green groups slammed Prague’s acceptance of the deal, saying there was a risk it would not address all of the groundwater supply problems around the mine, at Turów.
“It’s a shame that the Czech government is unprepared to stand firm on its citizens’ rights,” said Zala Primc from the environmental campaign group Europe Beyond Coal.
Underlying the sensitivity of the issues around Turów is Poland’s continued dependence on coal. The mine operator, PGE, says the power station supplied by the mine provides around five percent of Poland’s power and supplies some 2.3m households.
Prague filed the complaint at the European court against Poland for extending the life of the open-pit coal mine. The Czech government demanded the pit’s immediate closure on the basis that nearby communities were suffering from water supply problems.
News of the settlement came a few hours after an advisor to the European court issued an opinion in the case stating that Poland had violated EU law by extending the life of the coal mine until 2026 without carrying out an environmental impact assessment.
Polish prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki had said that shutting down the mine would cost hundreds of jobs and cause disruption of domestic power – and Warsaw has refused to pay the penalties.
In 2020, there were 166 coal-fired power plants operating in more than half of EU countries. Despite its sharp decline across Europe, it still accounts for 15 percent of the energy consumption in the 27-nation bloc.
The EU’s most polluting coal plants are in Poland and Germany.