Mining continues in Turów: ECJ fines Poland

The European Court of Justice has ordered Poland to pay 500,000 euros per day in fines as long as it continues to mine lignite in Turów. The open-pit mine is located in the Polish-Czech-German border triangle and threatens to lower the groundwater level in the entire area. After the Czech Republic lodged a complaint, the European Court of Justice ordered an immediate halt to the extraction operations in May. What went wrong?

Open/close all quotes
Český rozhlas (CZ) /

Visegrád fails in times of crisis

To avoid an encounter with his Czech counterpart Andrej Babiš against the backdrop of the dispute over the Turów coal mine, Poland's Prime Minister Morawiecki has cancelled his participation at the Visegrád Forum in Budapest. Český rozhlas comments:

“Poland claims that the continuation of mining in Turów is important from a security and economic point of view. The concerns of the inhabitants of the Czech borderland regarding the environment and the water supply have so far met with little interest in Warsaw. ... Also against the background of the Turów affair, the Visegrád Group is proving to be a goal-oriented lobby that only acts jointly when this suits its goals in disputes with Brussels, rather than a genuine regional community with deep common interests.”

Polityka (PL) /

Populists no good at foreign policy

The dispute highlights the weakness of populist governments when it comes to foreign policy, Polityka puts in:

“While in domestic politics it is sometimes more effective for rulers to communicate skillfully than to rely on strong arguments and cool judgment, in foreign policy populism almost always loses out to hard realism and intertwined interests. Everything indicates that Poland has not been realistic and properly assessed the situation in the conflict with the Czech Republic. The very fact that Warsaw has failed miserably so far reveals that the costs of neglecting diplomacy and its relations with the EU as well as neighboring countries can be much higher than temporary benefits at home.”

Handelsblatt (DE) /

Energy transition needs more investment

The verdict is quite a touchy matter, Handelsblatt points out:

“First of all the fact that up to five percent of Poland's electricity supply depends on the open pit mine and power plant in Turów should give pause for thought. Because that is not easy to replace. And replacing the Polish energy source with imports of coal from Russia or the Russian-occupied Ukrainian coal pot Donbass would also be fatal. The EU is already too dependent on Russian gas and oil, it must not also become dependent on coal from the Kusbass [coalfield in Siberia]. ... A reasonable compromise must be found in the Turów dispute. We must invest more subsidies in the energy transition in the entire region.”

Večernji list (HR) /

Czechs aren't insisting on complete shutdown

Despite the court decision there are still attempts to settle the case amicably, Večernji list points out:

“There is contact between the Czech and Polish governments through which attempts are being made to resolve the situation peacefully. ... According to Czech media, official Prague expects Poland to bear the costs of a new drinking water system on the Czech side of the border, where the drinking water has been contaminated by the Polish power plant. The Czech Republic also wants Poland to commit to regular and stricter environmental controls around the power plant, because Turów pollutes not just the water but also the air to a significant degree.”

Polityka (PL) /

Back to reality with a bump

In Polityka's view the Polish government has completely misjudged the situation:

“The Czech Republic is arguing that the Turów mine has a negative impact on the lives of tens of thousands of Czechs. ... These people are mainly concerned about the lowering of groundwater levels (German communities also complain about this, but Berlin has not yet officially taken up the issue). Prague had asked Warsaw to implement the environmental directives correctly, initially without involving the ECJ. ... The EU Commission upheld a number of the complaints against Poland in an official statement. Encouraged by Brussels, the Czechs' hopes for an amicable solution rose, while Warsaw was convinced that a Czech complaint before the ECJ would have only moderate chances of success and that the request to freeze Turów was 'completely excessive'. These were pipe dreams.”