Czechs ready to reach deal with Poland over disputed mine, minister says

The Turów coal mine in the Czech Republic. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

New Czech Environment Minister Anna Hubackova said on Thursday she was ready to hold talks with Poland next week to overcome a dispute over Poland’s open-pit coal mine Turow near the two countries’ border.

Talks between the central European allies in the dispute faltered last year, with the Czech Republic rejecting an amended Polish proposal in November.

A new Czech government took over in December following an October election.

Hubackova said a previous draft agreement from the end of September was acceptable for the Czech side.

The Czechs sued Poland last year – a rare occurrence among European Union neighbours – for what it says were violations of rules in granting the mine a licence to extend operations.

They say mining at the open pit leads to the loss of underground water on the Czech side, as well as noise and dust pollution.

Hubackova said the September draft was satisfactory in terms of providing a system of monitoring the situation and technical measures to limit adverse effects.

“I am prepared to go to Poland, to Warsaw, with an offer of an agreement, or signed contract, or for talks for closing a deal,” Hubackova told reporters after meeting local representatives on the Czech side of the border.

The nearest date was Jan. 18, she said.

The two sides have been in dispute about the length of the agreement, with Poland suggesting it may be ended after two years, which the Czech side said was unacceptable giving the mine’s planned lifespan of over two decades.

A Polish government source said on Thursday Poland could seek to cut the planned compensation offered to the Czech Republic for investments and other technical issues because of the growing level of fines it faces from the top EU court, confirming an earlier report in Polish paper Dziennik Gazeta Prawna.

Hubackova said she was not aware of such plans.

The Luxembourg-based Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) ordered Poland in September last year to pay a 500,000 euro daily penalty to the European Commission for defying an earlier injunction ordering it to halt operations, pending the Czech suit. Poland has refused to pay.

Turow, and the adjacent power plant operated by PGE , is a key power source and Poland has insisted it will keep operating the site.

(By Jan Lopatka, Anna Wlodarczak-Semczuk and Anna Koper; Editing by Jason Hovet, Angus MacSwan and David Evans)


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