On 29-31 May, 2013 four Members of the Committee on Petitions: Myself, Mr. Victor Bostinaru (S&D, RO), Mr. Keith Taylor (Greens, UK) and Mr. Ryszard Czarnecki (ECR, PL) participated in a fact finding mission to my home region of Lower Silesia, Poland.
The mission was organized in the context of a complex Petition (number 46/2010) concerning the plans to build Europe’s largest open cast mine in Lower Silesia (Lublin, Kunice, Ruja, Mikowice, Scinawa, and Prochuwice), against the wishes of the local inhabitants.
Our visit concluded with a report, which was discussed today (17/09) in the Committee on Petitions.
Mr. Bostinaru, who led the delegation, opened the discussion by expressing his satisfaction with the ability to meet over 100 petitioners who had, for the first time, someone to listen to their claims.
This is a particularly important point since so far the Polish authorities have failed to listen, or act upon the wishes of their citizens; they ignored the results of the 2009 referendum, where 95% of the residents voted against the plans to build the open-cast mine in the region. Furthermore they have not provided clarifications with respect to the long-term responsibility of developers for environmental damage occurring on sites.
Mr Bostinaru added that the “good and balanced report” is one welcomed outcome to the visit; however there are further amplifications the Polish authorities must provide members of the Committee, particularly of the full implementation of EU guidelines on the environment, and on the issue of ensuring transparency and a dialogue with the civil society in Poland.
Most importantly, referring to reports that domestic intelligence personal were involved in “watering-down” the residents’ protests, Mr Bostinaru described the situation as “alarming” and asked the Polish authorities for immediate explanation.
Adding to this last point I shared with members of the Committee my concerns about a new law that is being prepared in Poland, to prevent NGOs and ad-hoc organizations, which are active for less than one year, the possibility to participate in public consultations.
I also added that several environmental organizations have complained on controls, check ups and other forms of pressure put on them by the local authorities.
Colleague Keith Taylor added that the main success of the Petitions delegation was the response it provided citizens who were snubbed by their own government. He expressed the hope that the recommendations from the report will be carried through in order to ensure the Polish Authorities do not ignore the situation in the same way they ignore their citizens’.
Arguing against the report, Mr Walesa (EPP, PL), claimed that the Polish authorities have in fact responded to the petitioners, but their responses were not included in the final report. He added that the report also lacks the communication from the Polish Ministry of Environment and other relevant committees on this matter.
Mr Walesa also expressed his dismay with the fact the delegation visit coincided with the Christian holiday Corpus Christi, which prevented him from participating in the visit and meeting with the petitioners.
Fellow colleague Mr. Borys (EPP, PL), who also lives in the area, dismissed reports that local authorities are trying to intimidate protesting citizens. He asked members of the delegation to produce evidence to proves these claims.
Reflecting on the debate, I find it difficult to accept the claims of Mr. Walesa and Mr. Borys, who seem to be more occupied with the good reputation of the Polish government rather than listen to the voice of their fellow citizens…
Keeping that in mind I believe the delegation has achieved its main goal, which was allowing petitioners to meet authorities and have their claims addressed officially and seriously.
In my view, this issue has been mishandled since it started several years ago, and in the absence of transparency it is up to us to pass a clear message to the Polish authorities calling on them to respect EU laws on environmental protection and freedom of information.
And to my colleague Mr. Walesa I would like to remind that we share the same religion. Nevertheless since no other date could have been found for arranging the fact-finding visit, some of us decided to set our priorities in favour of the 338,000 people in the region who are affected by the mine…
Greetings from the European Parliament,
Lidia Geringer de Oedenberg
The report of the Petition delegation is available in the following link: