01 February 2024

Protest over broken promises: Two years after Polish-Czech deal, Turów communities remain thirsty for justice

PRAGUE, 1 February 2024 – Environmental activists protested outside Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala’s residence today to mark two years since the Czech-Polish deal on the Turów coal mine crisis. They protested because the deal has failed to address persistent water shortages and damage to housing in communities located close to the mine. The Czech premier was presented with a photobook called “3 kilometers from hopelessness” featuring people living in the vicinity of the mine as a visual reminder of the toll it takes on their daily lives. 

The Czech-Polish deal, struck in 2022, was intended to protect communities and the environment surrounding Turów. However, the PGE-owned Polish mine continues to drain water sources in nearby Czech villages to the mine’s south and causes subsidence and cracks to houses in German towns to the west. NGOs and the German city of Zittau have taken legal action against  PGE, asserting that its Environmental Impact Assessment failed to address cross-border harm caused by its operations. Last summer, a Polish court indefinitely suspended proceedings.

Despite the pledges within the Czech-Polish agreement, Turów continues to deplete water resources and inflict extensive damage to people’s homes along the Czech border. Since finalising the worthless deal two years ago, the government has failed to address the ongoing issues plaguing neighbouring communities in the region. For people living in the vicinity of the mine, life after the deal remains as hard as it was before,” said Nikol Krejčová, campaigner at Greenpeace Czechia.

The continued operation of the mine without a valid licence is progressively amplifying the adverse effects for people on the German side of the border in cities such as Zittau. Residents are suffering cracks to their houses and feel powerless in the face of PGE’s disregard for local communities. A plan to phase-out mining at Turów is essential to protect the environment and the climate,” said Prof. Dr. Dr. Felix Ekardt, chairman of the board of the German Organization BUND Sachsen.

While the rest of the country is racing ahead with the adoption of cleaner, cheaper renewable energy – renewables now account for 27% of Poland’s energy mix – Turów is lagging far behind. Coal is in irreversible decline throughout Europe. The absence of a transition plan is yet another blow to the Turów region. Swift action is essential to align with the broader European decarbonisation trajectory and avert regional decline,” said Michał Zabłocki, campaigner at Beyond Fossil Fuels.

Failing to craft a closure plan for the mine is not just detrimental to the well-being of locals facing housing damage and depletion to water supplies; it also hampers regional economic renewal by excluding the area from accessing the EU’s multi-billion euro Just Transition fund. A comprehensive strategy is not only a necessity for the affected individuals but is crucial for propelling the entire region towards a sustainable future,” said Radoslaw Gawlik, president of the EKO-UNIA Association.

ENDS

Contacts:

Nikol Krejčová, Campaigner, Greenpeace Czechia,
[email protected], +420 778 002 468

Yelena Zimdahl, BUND Sachsen e.V.
[email protected], +49 176 879 364 98

Radosław Gawlik, president of the EKO-UNIA Ecological Association
[email protected]

Michał Zabłocki, Communications and Campaign Consultant, Beyond Fossil Fuels
[email protected], +48 500 126 685

Notes:

  1. In 2020, Poland extended the lignite mining concession at Turów for six years without conducting an Environmental Impact Assessment, as required by EU law. The European Commission found that Poland infringed the EU EIA Directive, as confirmed by the Advocate-General in his opinion of 3 February 2022. 
  2. Turów has previously been the focus of a Czech lawsuit against the Polish government at the European Court of Justice, but the two countries reached a EUR 45 million settlement in Czechia’s favour, ending the dispute. 
  3. Turow has cost the Polish state at least EUR 110 million to-date: EUR 68 million in fines from the European Court of Justice, and EUR 45 million in compensation to Czechia as part of the Polish-Czech settlement. 
  4. Due to the lack of a viable decarbonisation strategy, the Zgorzelec subregion (where Turów mine is located) was excluded from the EU Just Transition Fund, forfeiting  at least EUR 200 million in the 2021-2027 Multi-Annual Financial Framework.

About: 

Beyond Fossil Fuels is a collective civil society campaign committed to ensuring all of Europe’s electricity is generated from fossil-free, renewable energy by 2035. It expands and builds upon the Europe Beyond Coal campaign, and its goal of a coal-free Europe in power and heat by 2030 at the latest. www.beyondfossilfuels.org

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