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As Czech government prepares to take Poland to court for illegal mining, activists urge European Commission to act

Campaigners call on the European Commission to start an infringement procedure immediately against Poland for the Turow mine’s illegal water grab. [1]

Environmental groups welcome the Czech Republic’s official complaint against Poland to stop the expansion of the Turow mine, which violates four EU directives. The submission was filed today to the European Commission by the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

At the Polish-Czech-German border, the Turów lignite mine withdraws about 30 litres of water per second, leaving entire villages dry and threatening groundwater in three countries, and especially the Czech Republic.

Polish state-owned company PGE plans to expand the mine and re-licence its operation until 2044. If this happens, thousands of families in the Czech Liberec region will lose access to potable water.

The mine expansion is incompatible with the Water Framework Directive, the Environmental Liability Directive, the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive and the Strategic Environmental Assessment Directive. The project is also incompatible with Europe’s zero pollution and climate neutrality ambitions.

Since May 2020 the mine has operated illegally, thanks to a six year mining licence extension obtained without public participation and without any environmental impact assessment.

Riccardo Nigro, Campaign Coordinator on Coal Combustion and Mines at the EEB, said:

“The European Commission must stop PGE’s transnational water grab in Turow, and they must do it now. They cannot let a coal giant steal water from people in the midst of a health and climate crisis and in violation of the laws they are supposed to enforce. An infringement procedure must be started immediately.”

The Czech complaint is the prestep to bring the Turow case in front of the European Court of Justice for infringement of an obligation under EU Treaties. As from today, the Commission has three months to react to the complaint, before the Czech government can take Poland to court in January.

Last month, over 150 national and European policymakers, local authorities and citizens groups called on the European Commission to take urgent action on the Turow case with a joint statement [2].

Back in July, the European Parliament’s Petition Committee discussed a petition, signed by 13,000 EU citizens [3], to stop the Turów project .

Petra Urbanová, a lawyer from EEB Czech member organisation Frank Bold, said:“

“The Commission has been waiting for too long. Now there is nothing more to wait for as they have only three months to issue their statement and to enable the Czech Republic to take Poland to court. Mining in Turow has been illegal since May, and access to water for thousands of Czech families is at stake. We cannot wait any longer.”

Notes to editors 

[1]https://ec.europa.eu/info/law/law-making-process/applying-eu-law/infringement-procedure_en#:~:text=According%20to%20the%20EU%20treaties,cases%2C%20can%20impose%20financial%20penalties. 

[2]Joint statement: Europe and Poland must stop Turów and bring water and climate justice

[3] Petition for saving drinking water in the Czech-Polish-German borderland