Czech Republic signed deal over controversial coal mine with Poland

Warsaw and Prague inked an agreement on a contentious Polish coal mine near the Czech border.

The Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala and his Polish counterpart Mateusz Morawiecki signed a deal on the Turow lignite mine in Prague, according to the Polish Prime Minister’s office on Twitter.

Mateusz Morawiecki stated that Poland had paid the agreed-upon compensation. “The Czech Republic has withdrawn its protest to European institutions, and this problem is over,” he told reporters.

The mine had provoked a standoff between Brussels and Warsaw when Prague protested that it was draining water from areas near the border.

Earlier on Thursday, Advocate General Priit Pikamäe, an advisor to the European Court of Justice (ECJ), stated that Poland violated EU legislation by prolonging the mine’s life without conducting an environmental impact study.

Despite Polish legislation to the contrary, he believes mining operations of the scale of Turow pose a risk to the environment and must be submitted to an assessment, even if only for an extension.

“Mining activities taking place over a surface area equivalent to that of the Turów mine offer a risk of significant environmental effects by nature and must necessarily be subject to an assessment of their environmental effects,” Pikamäe added.

For Belgian lawyer, Geert Van Calster, the opinion is no surprise.

“The Environmental Impact Assessment Directive is an old instrument of EU law. It has an important impact on local planning decisions. It now also has an important impact on energy decisions,” Van Calster told Euronews. But as such, it doesn’t come as a surprise. There is a vast body of case law that interprets this directive in a very proactive and very far-reaching way and I think those of us in the environmental legal community would have expected the advocate general to opine, as indeed he has done today.”

The Czech government had said the mine negatively impacts the environment and drains water from local villages.

Poland’s government replied that the mine fuels a power plant that provides about 7% of the country’s electricity and is required to meet the country’s energy demands.

On Thursday, Czech government spokesman Vaclav Smolka said that the government had accepted a draught agreement about the mine.

In October of last year, the ECJ fined Warsaw €500,000 a day for failing to comply with an injunction ordering the immediate closure of the Turów mine.