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Polish mining unions' protest is a blackmail against the just transition

Mining trade union leaders are protesting today at the seat of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) in Luxembourg, which in May ordered a temporary suspension of lignite mining in the Turów opencast mine and fined Poland half a million euros a day for failing to comply with the ruling. Environmental organizations point out that the miners' opponent is not the European court but the Polish government, which has led to an escalation of the conflict at the international level by failing  to issue the mining license in accordance to EU law and minimise its environmental impacts.

European institutions are not opponents of miners. The responsibility for the conflict around the Turów mine lies with  the Polish government which:

1. Failed to ease  the conflict with the Czech government: it ignored the remarks of the Czech Republic in the process of cross-border consultations, which led to an escalation of the conflict on the international arena; was unable to negotiate and conclude an agreement to compensate the Czechs for environmental losses and prevent further environmental damages;

2. Is losing Polish taxes: as of October 22, 2021, Poland has to pay approximately EUR 16 million for disregarding the CJEU ruling;

3. Has no idea how to resolve the conflict apart from spending more and more taxpayers' money, which will make Turów energy the most expensive electricity in Poland, undermining the economic sense of the functioning of the Turów mine and power plant.

Radosław Gawlik, president of the EKO-UNIA Ecological Association: - The protest of mining unions is a political and media firework, which aims to draw the attention of European institutions. The Polish government and trade unions should not be questioning the European judiciary. The interim measure was issued on the basis of strong proof of Turów causing irreversible environmental damage. 

Anna Meres, coordinator of climate campaigns in Greenpeace Poland: - The attack on important EU institutions does not bring us closer to a positive solution to the conflict, which would be a gradual reduction of lignite mining from the open pit still this decade, restructuring of lignite capacity in Turów and the preservation and creation of new jobs and a new development model in the Zgorzelec region. The government should urgently develop a closure plan for  the Turów complex and a just transition plan to ensure millions in EU funds instead of spending Polish taxpayers’ money on multi-million penalties.

Tomasz Waśniewski, president of the "Development YES - Open-pit mines NO" Foundation: - The addressee of the unionists' demands is in Poland and it holds the  key to solving the problem. Was there not enough time since 2019 to solve the dispute with the Czech Republic so that institutions that guard the  rule of law in Europe do not have to act as arbitrators? Trade unions want to place the Tribunal in Luxembourg as the cause and perpetrator of their troubles, the messenger of bad news who must be beheaded. This short-sighted action will not get anything done, it will only heat up the already tense situation in Poland's relations with the EU and its neighbors.


Foto: Max Zieliński, Greenpeace

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Our organizations jointly counteract the expansion of the open-cast Turów lignite mine in Poland for the benefit of local communities, nature and climate. We support civic activities undertaken by the international community at the interface of the Czech Republic, Germany and Poland. We strive to make the lignite-dependent Bogatynia enter the path of energy transition as well as economic and social transformation.

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