EU against mines in Poland but not in Germany: Polish MEP

Although the harmfulness of the production of electricity from lignite to the environment has been discussed for 40 years, still approximately 19 percent of Germany’s energy comes from power plants running on this fuel. A large percentage is also in the Czech Republic, MEP Anna Zalewska from the Law and Justice party (PiS) said.

She added that next to the Turów lignite mine complex there is a five times larger mine complex in the Czech Republic and ten times larger in Germany.

In 2020, approximately 107 million tonnes of lignite were mined in opencast mines in four German federal states - North Rhine-Westphalia, Brandenburg, Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt, according to the Statista website. Germany is expected to completely move away from coal by 2038.

“Neither the CJEU nor the European Commission has thought of closing any mines in Germany. Meanwhile, more and more mines operate in this country and currently more than 50 percent of their energy is produced from coal. The commission did not speak when another lignite-fired power plant was opened in Germany before the pandemic. Even the Greens in Germany do not protest against coal usage in the country, but find it appropriate to comment on what is happening in Poland, Ms Zalewska pointed out.

“In Lusatia where there are still four large facilities of this type (mines) at the border with Poland, residents have been complaining for years about the lowering of the groundwater level, the drying out of the surrounding lakes, as well as the contamination of local rivers with sulphates. Contrary to LEAG, the mine operator, which questions the relationship between extraction and the change in the hydrological situation, both the Brandenburg government and the local higher administrative court admit that such a connection exists, but justify the continuation of mining with an overriding public interest,” the Center for Eastern Studies commented.

According to the Polish MEP 60-70 percent of inhabitants of the region where the Polish Turów mine operates, both Czechs and Poles, do not want anything to do with the dispute over the mine's future. “They believe that the dispute was artificially created. They profit from the fact that the mine exists and, at the same time, they trust research that the activity of the mine does not lower groundwater,” she emphasised.

Mrs Zalewska added that it is not possible to shut down the mine in one day. “This judgment is impossible to comply with. More than a dozen countries have not implemented all kinds of CJEU verdicts, considering them not feasible. This situation becomes even more scandalous because the CJEU issued a decision during the Polish-Czech negotiations,” she stressed.

On Monday, Rosario Silva, the deputy head of the CJEU, ordered Poland to pay a daily penalty payment of EUR 500,000 to the European Commission for not halting operations at its Turów open-pit lignite mine in south-western Poland near the border with the Czech Republic. This decision came after the EU court ordered the mine’s operations to be stopped immediately in May, pending a ruling as a precautionary measure, Poland did not comply with the decision.