Impact of the fish die-off in the Oder River

The exact cause of the mass fish die-off in the Oder River has still not been identified, although laboratory analysis of the water and fish carcasses are in full swing in Poland and Germany. Europe's press sees the natural disaster's toll on Polish-German relations and the border river's ecosystem.

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Polityka (PL) /

European standards do not apply here

Berlin will take note of how the PiS authorities reacted to this issue, says Polityka:

“One gets the impression that this crisis will further deepen Germany's mistrust of the Polish government. There is also an important lesson for the Germans: in the event of a crisis in the border region, they should neither wait for information from the other side nor rely on coordination. They simply need to take their own measures right from the start. Because what works well in relations with other neighbours and is considered a European standard does not work when dealing with hostile politicians and officials.”

Gazeta Wyborcza (PL) /

Conflict with Brussels only weakens Warsaw

PiS's confrontational policy is counterproductive, Gazeta Wyborcza is convinced:

“This party wants to bring us into conflict with all the institutions, which by definition are a bulwark against domination by the big players. Instead of following the rules of the game and skillfully using the EU mechanisms accordingly, it quarrels with the Commission. By calling for the curtailment of EU competencies, Kaczyński - in line with PiS logic - is de facto acting in favour of Germany. For the consequence is that no limits are set for the big players.”

taz, die tageszeitung (DE) /

The PiS system stinks to high heaven

Poland's right-wing populist ruling party has completely failed on this issue, the taz comments indignantly:

“Morawiecki fired two top officials. But what difference can this sacrifice of two pawns make, especially when they can count on the party offering them another lucrative job? The whole PiS system stinks to high heaven. Hopefully the voters will understand this - in view of the hundreds of thousands of dead fish and the unbelievable recklessness of PiS politicians in the face of threats to the health of Poles. And hopefully they will vote the PiS out of office in the autumn of 2023 so that this one-party state can once again become a functioning democracy.”

Rzeczpospolita (PL) /

Other careers have run aground there

Poland's government could be miscalculating, Rzeczpospolita warns:

“The government hopes that all the fuss over the environmental disaster on the Oder will die down. After all, this is the holiday season, and what's more it's a long weekend. And next week the Poles may already be dealing with other issues. Let's not forget, however, that there has already been a prime minister whose career ran aground in the Oder. Exactly 25 years ago, Włodzimierz Cimoszewicz's image suffered due to comments which testified to a lack of empathy and sensitivity during the millennium flood.”

Die Welt (DE) /

Problem can only be tackled together

The fact that there has been no reasoned cooperation aimed at clarifying the problem so far shows how damaged the German-Polish relationship has become not only at the government level, says Philipp Fritz, Warsaw correspondent for Die Welt:

“It is precisely the cooperation between Germans and Poles in the border area, for example between the police and even the environmental authorities, that receives praise on both sides of the Oder - or rather used to. ... 'We realise that this reporting chain, which is intended for such cases, did not work,' a spokesman for the German Environment Ministry said on Friday. ... This is worrying, because good German-Polish relations are absolutely crucial. ... The common problems for these two countries will not become fewer in number for the foreseeable future.”

Gazeta Wyborcza (PL) /

A second Chernobyl

Gazeta Wyborcza emphasises the international dimensions of the disaster:

“Experts are comparing the environmental disaster on the Oder to a second Chernobyl. And not just because the authorities warned the citizens too late. The consequences of the extinction of life in the Oder will be felt for years, if not decades. It is also an international problem - the German border runs along the riverbed, and nearby are national parks and nature reserves of European importance.”

Tygodnik Powszechny (PL) /

The Oder in agony

Tygodnik Powszechny is inconsolable:

“Even if the person responsible for the disaster is identified and convicted and the officials who ignored the problem for months are dismissed, the damage to the environment is irreversible. We have come to realise in the 21st century that a river does not just consist of water flowing through a channel to the sea, but also of vegetation, fish, insects and birds. ... All these elements form a complex organism on which the lives of all the inhabitants depend. The images we are seeing today - dead fish and mammals - are not the river's tears but its death agony. It will take at least a few years for the Oder to recover. It's enough to make you weep.”

Gazeta Wyborcza (PL) /

Environmental authorities shirking responsibility

Gazeta Wyborcza demands explanations:

“Which institution in Poland is responsible for environmental protection? The list is quite long: the Provincial Inspectorates for Environmental Protection, the Chief Inspectorate for Environmental Protection, the Regional Directors for Environmental Protection, the Director General for Environmental Protection, the State Forestry Administration, local governments, the Polish Water Inspectorate, the Minister of Climate and Environment, sometimes also the police and the National Public Prosecutor's Office. ... I bet there's more, too. I apologise for those omitted. So who can explain why five tonnes of fish died in the Oder and what that means for the river? Unfortunately, no one is prepared to do so.”