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Poland threatens to sue Germany over dumped waste

July 26, 2023

The Polish government says it may be forced to take Germany to court over waste, some of it toxic, being transported and stored in unauthorized landfills.

An illegal waste deposit with waste probably from construction sites, which was found in Police near Stettin, northwestern Poland
The issue of dumped waste has been a contentious one for years but was recently reignitedImage: Police_Handout/dpa/picture-alliance

Polish Environment Minister Anna Moskwa on Wednesday urged Germany to take back waste allegedly dumped illegally across the border in Poland.

Moskwa told a press conference that Warsaw had already filed a complaint with the European Commission as the first stage to possible legal action.

What did the Polish minister say?

Moskwa said at least 35 tons of German waste are currently on Poland's territory at seven different dumping grounds.

She said the German government and local authorities had failed to respond to a removal request, with Berlin passing the buck to individual German states.

"We have intervened multiple times with our German western neighbors, both at the state and federal levels, calling for the removal of the German garbage that is illegally lying on Polish soil," Moskwa said.

"The federal government replied that it was the competence of the German States, while the states were in no hurry to take any action."

In an apparent reference to the Green Party, which forms part of Germany's three-way ruling coalition, Moskwa said she was appealing to Germany's "extremely green government."

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"We filed a complaint with the European Commission, which is the first stage of proceedings before sending it to the Court of Justice of the European Union."

Brussels and Berlin still waiting

The European Commission said that, while it was aware of reports of a pending complaint from Poland, it had not yet received the official document.

Germany's Environment Ministry said it didn't have the complaint and was unable to comment on it specifically.

However, spokesperson Christopher Stolzenberg said that, in general terms, illegal waste exports are something that the German government views with concern.

He confirmed that state governments, rather than Berlin, were responsible for investigating, tracing, and ordering the return of illegal export, but added that Berlin tries to help "informally" where it can.

An election campaign issue

Foreign waste stored in Poland has been an issue for years, but it has become a political hot potato in the run-up to Polish elections due later this year.

It became particularly contentious after some 5,000 tons of chemical waste burned down a storage hall last weekend in western Poland.

Poland's incumbent national conservative Law and Justice (PiS) government has blamed the opposition. It says the liberal-conservative Civic Platform (PO) allowed the unimpeded import of hazardous waste during its term in office.

Meanwhile, the PO — which has been out of power since 2015 — has accused the government of failing to supervise the dumps properly.

rc/nm (AP, dpa)

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