Saturday, 23 October 2021
Maria Wilczek writes:
Thousands of miners demonstrated outside of the EU’s top court in Luxembourg against its decision to fine Poland €500,000 a day for refusing to close a coalmine.
The miners shouted “close the tribunal” outside the European Court of Justice headquarters over the ruling passed last month against the Turow mine, near the border with the Czech Republic, after complaints from Prague that its operation was harming the environment.
“We will set Europe on fire . . . in our hearts, to resist those idiots who want to make thousands of people unemployed,” called Piotr Duda, the head of the Solidarity trade union co-ordinating the event.
“Let them be afraid. Let them know that their decision is unacceptable to us,” he told the crowd of people waving union banners and wearing yellow vests bearing the words “Hands off Turow”.
The miners, regarded as fierce demonstrators in Poland, were met by about 840 police officers equipped with military vehicles and water cannon. Coils of barbed wire had been put up around the court building.
The two thousand protesters who arrived in night buses from Poland this morning were joined by Polish MEPs from the country’s ruling Law and Justice (PiS), who walked to the Czech embassy to present a petition.
Anna Zalewskak, 56, one of the PiS MEPs present, singled out the European Commission’s vice-president.
“We do not agree with what [Frans] Timmermans is saying, who wants to destroy the world in which we live,” she said.
The demonstration comes amid a wider and longstanding legal conflict between the Luxembourg judges and Poland’s government, as well as during an EU leaders summit about an emissions reduction plan, Fit for 55, contested by countries including coal-fired Poland.
However, the country’s miners have become enraged by a European court order on September 20 that puts financial pressure on Poland to suspend mining at the Turow operation, which employs about 1,250 people.
The government argued that closing the mine, which supplies a power station generating up to 7 per cent of Poland’s electricity, would jeopardise its energy security.
But that defiance has now cost the country more than €16 million in daily fines and pressure is piling to reach an agreement with its neighbour.
This is becoming increasingly problematic for Warsaw, which called Prague “irrational” after talks broke down at the start of the month.
The Polish environment ministry also said this week that it was investigating environmental concerns regarding a Czech-owned mine in Germany, which supplied the country’s third-largest power plant in Jänschwalde, which could serve as grounds to counter-sue.
Miner protests in Poland have in the past turned violent, with a number ending in fights with police, as well as firecrackers being thrown around and slabs of pavement being ripped out in Warsaw.