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PRAGUE, June 17 (Reuters) - Poland is optimistic of an agreement with the Czech Republic over a disputed open-pit coal mine, Climate Minister Michal Kurtyka said on Thursday, as negotiations were about to start.
In February, Prague filed a lawsuit against coal-reliant Poland at the EU’s Court of Justice, saying the Turow mine - which has been granted an extension of operations by Warsaw - was damaging communities over the border in the Czech Republic.
The court in May ordered Poland to halt mining at Turow ahead of a final judgement. Warsaw rejected this order, but said it would start talks with the Czechs that could lead to the lawsuit’s withdrawal.
“We absolutely see a possibility of reaching such agreement,” Kurtyka told a press conference in Prague.
Kurtyka and Czech Environment Minister Richard Brabec, also speaking at the conference, said the aim was to reach a bilateral agreement and not a court order.
“We are closer to an agreement than ever before,” said Brabec, adding the Czech side was ready to withdraw its legal complaint.
“But (the withdrawal) does not end things. The aim is to have a long-term deal on mutual functioning of our countries in the frontier regions even when the mining continues,” he said.
Environmentalists denounced the officials’ comments, saying the expected agreement would not address Poland’s reluctance to phase out coal quickly.
“A plan to abandon coal by 2030 is urgently needed for Turow and the rest of Poland,” Greenpeace said in a statement.
Poland’s climate ministry in April extended a mining concession for Turow until 2044.
The country, which generates around 70% of electricity from coal, was the only EU country in 2019 that did not commit to the goal of cutting the bloc’s net greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2050.
Warsaw has acknowledged a switch to cleaner fuels is inevitable and has taken steps to reduce carbon emissions, but activists say it needs to act faster. (Reporting by Robert Muller and Jason Hovet in Prague, Alan Charlish, Agnieszka Barteczko and Pawel Florkiewicz in Warsaw Editing by Alex Richardson and Mark Potter)