New dam controversy places Poland’s EU entry in jeopardy

According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Poland risks delaying its membership of the European Union if it goes ahead with two controversial dam projects.

The Two proposed projects are a 270 million euro ($161.4 million) dam on the Lower Vistula at Nieszawa, which the WWF says would irreversibly damage one of Europe’s last big almost free-flowing rivers and some of Europe’s most outstanding landscapes and nature, and the 2.5 billion euro ($1.49 billion) “Odra 2006” project involving two new dams and major river engineering works for shipping, flood defence and water quality improvement.

The WWF says that greener, more efficient and economically and socially beneficial alternatives put forward ave been ignored by the Polish Government.

“Poland has already been warned by the Commission that early accession is threatened by its poor environmental performance” said Tony Long, Director of WWF’s European Policy Office. “Going ahead with these two projects will fuel the European Commission’s belief that Poland is not taking seriously its obligations to conform with EU environmental law.”

The EU-Poland Association Agreement states that Polish development policies must be guided by the principle of sustainable development and take full account of environmental considerations. The EU-Poland Accession Partnership Agreement makes EU environmental law a priority for Poland to adopt.

“The Nieszawa dam project is in breach of Environmental Impact Assessment, the Access to Environmental Legislation and the Birds and Habitats Directives as well as being contrary to the Amsterdam Treaty commitment to sustainable development” commented Tony Long. “Poland can put its environmental record back on track for early EU membership by cancelling these projects and working with the Commission and NGOs like WWF to implement greener and more cost-effective alternatives.”

According to the WWF, the EC has criticised Poland many times for not making enough progress in adopting EU environmental law, and that during a visit to Poland in March Commissioner Wallström expressed her concern about the impact of the proposed Nieszawa dam. The Commission stated that it ruled out funding for the dam but confirmed money could be available for alternative schemes.

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