On Thursday, the leaders of Poland and the Czech Republic signed an agreement seeking to end a protracted dispute over an open pit coal mine in Turów near the Czech and German border. Already facing over EUR 68 mln in EU fines, Poland committed itself to pay the Czech Republic EUR 45 mln to settle the legal row.
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The Polish Press Agency reported on Thursday morning that a preliminary agreement between Poland and the Czech Republic has been reached that could end the months-long dispute over the PGE Turów coal mine near the Czech and German border. The document is supposed to have been greenlighted by the Polish government on Wednesday.

On Thursday morning, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki traveled to Prague, where he met with his Czech counterpart Petr Fiala to continue talks held until now by designated teams from both countries. The negotiations ended with the signing of an agreement.

Spór o kopalnię Turów. Premier Polski Mateusz Morawiecki i premier Czech Petr Fiala podpisali umowę
Spór o kopalnię Turów. Premier Polski Mateusz Morawiecki i premier Czech Petr Fiala podpisali umowę  fot. Kancelaria Premiera

Turów coal mine. A bitter deal

Shortly after 1:00 p.m., both prime ministers held a press conference where they announced reaching a deal on the Turów coal mine.

- The talks had one goal: to reach an agreement which would be beneficial for our citizens - said Petr Fiala. - We are extremely happy that we managed to achieve this goal. We have just signed the agreement. It is a huge success.

Under the agreement, Poland committed itself to pay the Czech Republic a total of €45 million. €35 million will be paid out by the Polish government, and the remaining € 10 million will be transferred by the state-run energy company PGE to the Czech Liberec Region. The agreement also mentions a five-year-long oversight period over the implementation of the deal. In addition, Poland is to complete an underground barrier to prevent the outflow of groundwater from the Czech territory and build an earthen embankment, which will protect Czech residents from noise and dust.

It has also been agreed to set up a fund to finance local environmental projects. Poland will monitor the levels of groundwater, noise, and pollution until the end of all extraction activities at the mine.

- Thanks to the agreement, we will have access to all data concerning extraction- the Czech Prime Minister emphasized.

He also noted that the Czech Republic will withdraw its legal complaint from the CJEU if Poland transfers the agreed amount.

PM Morawiecki: we are starting a new chapter

Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said that other issues were also discussed during the meeting, including the situation in Ukraine and the EU’s energy policy.

- We have months of negotiations behind us, which were difficult and bumpy, but ended in success- he stressed, thanking "all those who contributed to it, led by Minister Anna Moskva". - This ends a bitter period of very good Polish-Czech relations, which were developing excellently until the time of Turów. Today, we are starting a new chapter. This is what we need as neighbors- Prime Minister Morawiecki added.

He also addressed the residents of Poland’s Lower Silesia region, assuring them that the activity of the Turów mine and power plant is not threatened.

- Life has shown that the solution to the Turów dispute did not have to wait for the CJEU judgment. I am convinced that in a very short time, today or tomorrow, the Czech Republic will withdraw its complaint and the problem will cease to exist- said the Prime Minister.

He also stated that the problem of further fines imposed by the CJEU on Poland would "disappear" along with the withdrawal of the complaint from the EU court.

Poland v CJEU. The fines keep growing

It is worth recalling that the Polish-Czech negotiations were caused by a complaint that the Czech Republic filed with the Court of Justice of the European Union, accusing Poland of violating EU regulations when granting concessions until 202 to the PGE Turów mine located near the Czech border.

Last September, the CJEU fined Poland €500,000 a day for failing to comply with a May ruling to temporarily halt work on the open pit coal mine. Poland is now expected to pay €68 million, or more than PLN 300 million. The European Commission has so far issued a bill for €15 million for the first month, which will probably soon be subtracted from the EU subsidies to which Poland is entitled.

Talks on the agreement have been held since June last year. They were suspended in fall due to the parliamentary elections and the formation of a new government in the Czech Republic. In January, negotiations resumed, and during the following days, both sides exchanged comments on a draft agreement.

According to media reports, the deal-breaker was supposedly the total sum Poland would pay its neighbor. The Czech Republic was expecting Poland to pay €50 million for preventing damage caused by the mine, but Poland only agreed to pay €40 million. The second unresolved issue was about the duration of CJEU’s oversight of the implementation of the agreement. The Czechs wanted it to be 10 years, while Poland wanted two.

Meanwhile, on Thursday, February 3, the CJEU Advocate General issued an opinion on the Turów mine that is "preliminary to the judgment". He agreed with the Czech Republic and stated that Poland has violated EU regulations by extending the mine’s concession until 2026.

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