Transition of the Turoszow region is inevitable. It seems that the region’s authorities and union members also began to notice this. However, instead of preparing for hard times and making good use of the EU funds, they concentrate all forces in order to keep the status quo in the power station and opencast of Turów.
1. Have your cake and eat it. Local authorities about the region transition.
Poviat heads and mayors of the Zgorzelec, Bolesławiec and Lubańsk districts sent a petition against the closure of the Turów mine and power station in Bogatynia to the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen. The representatives of local authorities, who signed the petition expressed “concern over the actions of our Czech neighbours, that aim for closing the Turów mine and energy complex”. They are afraid of the closure and potential job losses.
Signing this petition, representatives of district authorities have shown that they underestimate the urgency of actions related to minimizing the effects of the climate crisis. Another issue of concern is a lack of solidarity with Czech neighbours, that might be deprived of access to drinking water due to opencast mining operation.
It also surprises that the petition was directed to the President of European Commission since, it clearly says that the local authorities do not share beliefs of the European Union regarding urging measures to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, meanwhile asking EU institutions for help. At the same time, they object to the implementation of the European Green Deal, which is a flagship project of the European Commission led by von der Leyen.
The petition underlines that the region “faces the necessity of changes in the job structure as well as the creation of new workplaces” and that it’s not ready for these reforms before 2044. Moreover, the petitioners ask for “support for all activities aimed at transforming our region and creating jobs that would be an alternative to the Turów mining and energy complex”. It seems that the authorities don’t understand, that if they want to apply for a EU funds, they have to take real steps to transform the region. And this requires an announcement of dates for the shutdown of subsequent blocks at the power station in Turów and gradual reduction of coal extraction in the opencast. Without facing the challenges of the future the local governments appeal is just a wish to “let the moment last”.
2. Meeting of the foreign ministers. Czechs are calling for better communication.
On the 27th of May a meeting of Polish and Czech foreign ministers took place. The Czech minister Tomáš Petriček talked with Jacek Czaputowicz about the mine license for Turów. “I asked for a better communication in terms of this case. The Czech Republic is willing to receive more specific information on further events” – commented Petriček. The Liberec region wants Czech Republic to sue Poland in the international court for the PGE and Polish government actions regarding the extension of the mining license for the Turów opencast.
3. Media addresses the Turów issue
Developments on the European Union level and the reactions of various local and supranational actors, which are a consequence of the prolongation of the mining license for the Turów open cast lignite mine, were reflected in the Polish media. Karolina Kijek from “Gazeta Wyborcza” addressed the possible problems for Poland regarding extension of the license for Turów mine: “European Commission is investigating whether the PiS government violated EU law by agreeing to continue mining in the Turów opencast”.
In the article of “Gazeta Wyborcza” Kuba Gogolewski from Foundation “Rozwój TAK – Odkrywki NIE” explained what is the EU Pilot procedure, during which the European Commission should verify whether the EU law was violated: It’s like giving a yellow card, prior to the official EU law infringement procedure starts. It can be treated as a statement from the EU side: We are concerned. Prove us wrong”.
Moreover, Bogatynia television published a conversation with the union members Adam Olejnik and Bogumił Tyszkiewicz which prove that workers at the Turów mine and power plant complex are afraid of the pressure from German and Czech organisations, local authorities, and regional and state actors, that could lead to the closure of the Turów mine within 6 years.
4. Will Turów receive funds for a just transition?
The European Commission affirmed that Poland, Germany and Romania will be the biggest beneficiaries of the updated “Just Transition Fund”. The fund, aimed at mitigating the socio-economic impact of green transition in regions with high carbon emissions, is to increase from the original amount of EUR 7.5 billion to EUR 40 billion.
According to newly proposed allocations originally assessed 2 billion euros for Poland will increase to 8 billion euros. Although Poland will have a bigger budget, the Turoszow area and Turów complex is not included in the transition project for Lower Silesia. The regional authorities do not apply properly for these funds and do not understand that in order to obtain them they have to accept the phasing out of coal energy.