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EU orders Poland to halt coal mining after Czech complaint

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Warsaw, Poland – The EU’s top court has ordered Poland to halt coal mining at the Turow mine, ruling in favour of the Czech Republic which took its neighbour to court several weeks ago.

EU court orders temporary halt to Turow mining pending final judgement

“The pleas of fact and law raised by the Czech Republic justify the granting of the interim measures sought,” the Court of Justice of the European Union stated in a decision published on Friday.

Pending the final judgment, which will be given at a later date, the EU’s highest judicial court ordered Poland to immediately halt brown coal mining at the Turow mine, operated in conjunction with the nearby power plant by state-run PGE and located close to the Czech and German borders.

Czech Environment Minister Richard Brabec hailed Friday’s decision as “the first big victory in the Turow case”.

“This ruling is a welcome reprieve for people living on the front-line of the crisis, who have been forced to live with the mine gulping their drinking water and undercutting their houses,” said Kathrin Gutmann from the Europe Beyond Coal organisation.

“The message for polluters like PGE is clear: the rules are the same for everyone, and they are there to protect everyone.”

After negotiations with Polish authorities failed to yield an agreement, the Czech government in March took Poland to court over its decision to extend the mine’s licence until 2026, or even 2044.

The first case where an EU member state takes another to court over environmental concerns, the issue has dented relations between the two Central European neighbours.

Poland defiant in face of CJEU ruling on Turow coal mine

Pointing to the open-cast lignite mine’s negative environmental impact and claiming it could cause severe and irreparable damage to populations living just across the border, the Czech Republic also filed an injunction calling for its immediate halt pending the final judgment of the court.

Siding with the Czech arguments, the EU’s top court noted that Polish authorities failed to conduct a proper assessment of the environmental impact of the mine’s licencing extension, thus breaching EU regulations.

In January, the German city of Zittau, located just across the border from the Polish plant, also sued Poland on the same environmental and public health grounds.

In a statement released shortly after, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki lashed out at the decision, saying the measures were “disproportionate” and “could harm Poland’s energy security.”

Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro went even further, claiming that “the entry of the EU bodies more and more deeply into the field of competence of Polish authorities smacks of colonial spirit and is unacceptable.”