The Czech Republic will not withdraw a lawsuit it filed at the EU Court of Justice to halt operations at the Turów lignite coal mine in Poland, located in the close proximity to the Czech border, Prime Minister Andrej Babiš announced on Tuesday.
Speaking to journalists in Brussels, Mr Babiš also said Poland has for the first time acknowledged Prague’s objections and was ready to find a joint solution with the Czech side.
The Turów mine, operated by state-run company PGE, continues to operate despite Friday's order by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) to stop mining activities immediately until a final judgement is delivered.
The decision came as a result of charges brought up by the Czech government, which says the mining activity on the border of the two countries is causing severe, potentially irreversible, damage, mainly by draining groundwater away from the surrounding areas.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has called the court ruling wrongful and unfair, saying that it exposed Polish citizens to risk and threatened their security.
Despite the charges filed by the Czech government, the Polish authorities in April extended mining at Turów until 2044. In reaction to the decision, the European Commission said the region would not receive money from the EU's flagship green transition fund.
Speaking to Czech television on Tuesday, Environment Minister Richard Brabec said negotiations with Poland were underway and that a bilateral agreement could be concluded within a few weeks’ time.
"According to the information I have, Poland has tentatively agreed on the structure of the intergovernmental agreement. Prime Ministers Morawiecki and Babiš have it on the table, so I think we have taken an important first step," Mr Brabec said.
He also said the agreement will contain technical and legislative conditions as well as financial commitments, which should compensate for the loss of water and prevent noise and dust pollution.
The Czech-Polish dispute over the planned expansion of the Turów brown coal mine goes back to 2016 when the Czech Republic first protested against the plan, requesting information about the environmental impact on the Czech side of the border.
Mr Brabec said that while he regretted that relations with Poland have gone sour over the issue of mine expansion, the Czech Republic's decision to file a lawsuit was a last resort.
"Just as they are fighting for their employees, the Czech government is fighting for its citizens. If it were the other way around, I am sure the Poles would do the same," he concluded.