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Dispute around Turów coal mine: why it is important

It may seem that the conflict between the Czech Republic and Poland around Turów coal mine is a typical dispute of only ecological nature. But a question of further operation of Turów coal mine and local power plant may cause a bitter political conflict within the EU.

Prague could have discussed this issue with Warsaw in a friendly way on the bilateral level. They also could resolve this dispute on platforms of the Visegrad Group. In February of this year the Czech Republic filed a lawsuit before the EU court. It was rather unexpected step for Poland’€™s leadership. After that Poland’€™s prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki tried to resolve this conflict with his Czech colleague Andrew Babish. The Czech Republic stated about its readiness to move ahead with its lawsuit.

Warsaw assumes that it is Germany which stands behind such hard position of the Czech Republic. It worth mentioning that Turów coal mine is located in Lower Silesia Province bordering with the Czech Republic and Germany. Both countries claim that their residents of border regions suffer from polluted air, lands and ground water due to the operation of Poland’€™s mine and power station working on local coal. Poland’€™s leadership considers that Germany wanted to get Poland back because of its hard position regarding NS2 and legal recourse regarding the binding nature of the third energy package for NS2. It is believed that Berlin had persuaded Czech leadership take the hard stand, demanding Warsaw to immediately close the mine and local power station working on coal.

It worth mentioning that Germany’€™s leadership not only voted for the so-called “€œgreen direction”€ within the framework of energy policy, but also managed to persuade the EU to stick it too. Poland, that mainly uses coal, has become the only EU state that had not undertook to reach new climate standards by 2050. For example, Berlin and Brussels insist on the necessity of closing power plants working on coal by 2030. But Poland has only stated its intention of gradual closure of the power plant working on brown coal – the Bełchatów Power Station.

Warsaw also stated its plans of gradual termination of electricity generation using coal, of increasing nuclear power use and a share of renewable energy sources and decarbonisation of the economy. But Poland’€™s politicians key word is ‘€˜gradual’€™. In turn, Prague strictly requires Warsaw immediate closure of Turów coal mine and the power plant. But Warsaw considers such ultimate position unacceptable.

This conflict involves not only ecologists, local population, but also politicians of the three countries. Considering elections that were or will be held in each of these countries, different political forces may use the dispute to gain a political support.

But the problem is public figures never limit themself by a separate question going beyond its limits. Most politicians usually use all available facts, controversial issues and sharp contradictions. This was the very case.

Polish politicians have started to recall the fact that post-war Germany had not payed any reparations to Poland after long occupation of Poland by the Third Reich. Czech politicians recalled the military conflict between the Second Polish Republic and Czechoslovakia over Cieszyn Silesia in 1919 and the annexation by Poland of some Czech and Slovak territories (Zaolzie) in 1939. German politicians started reminding that in 2004 Poland did not meet many Copenhagen and Maastricht criteria to join the EU, then Germany agreed to close its eyes to this fact. Today Poland is one of the main consumers of the EU funds that are replenished from the German economy.

So, local, as it may seem, ecological dispute between Prague and Warsaw has unexpectedly become a political one with a potential of aggravation in future.

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