Habitat Oder and Haff


Container port in Świnoujście: I am concerned that the Polish government wants to create a fait accompli

The Polish government continues to hastily push ahead with plans to build a container terminal in Świnoujście. In July, a 30-year preliminary contract was signed between Szczecin and Świnoujście Seaports Authority SA and a Belgian-Qatari consortium for the construction and operation of the container port. This preliminary contract will come into effect once the environmental impact assessment (EIA) has been completed. According to Polish press reports, EU funding has allegedly been approved for parts of the project – the construction of the shipping channel – although there are many unanswered questions in the ongoing cross-border EIA process.

My statement

“The container port and the works on the Odra river are interrelated – without the possibility of transporting goods on the Odra, the port in its current planning is completely oversized and economically inefficient. However, the Polish plans to tranform the Odra into a shipping route similar to the Rhine are not more than just a pipe dream. The EU has also realized this and ruled out any financial support: after all, last year’s devastating environmental disaster showed that the Odra is already at its limit. An expansion, as planned by the Polish government, would have far-reaching negative consequences for the ecosystem and flood protection. The World Bank is also currently reviewing its funding commitment. And even the highest Polish courts have declared the works illegal – the PiS government is ignoring this, thus proving once again how little it respects the rule of law. I am concerned that it wants to create a fait accompli before the Polish elections in October.

I therefore find it completely incomprehensible that such a controversial project as the container port in Świnoujście should be partly financed by EU funds. During summer, I tried – in vain – to talk to the Seehafen AG and the mayor of Świnoujście about this issue. Now I have contacted the European Commission to find out on what basis these subsidies were approved and how the Commission plans to ensure compliance with European environmental legislation in the affected Natura 2000 sites on both sides of the border. Finally, an expert report I commissioned last year predicts massive negative impacts for nature and wildlife in these areas. If the Commission is serious about its Green Deal, the time of subsidies for projects harming the environment and causing more greenhouse gas emissions must finally be over. The Commission should thus take a very close look at this example.

This week, the German-Polish consultations within the framework of the transboundary EIA procedure will take place in Szczecin. However, environmental associations and citizens’ initiatives as representatives of civil society do not have the right to speak in order to make their objections heard. I therefore expect the state government to vigorously defend the interests of the stakeholders involved on the German side.”

Background information on the Świnoujście container port

The Polish government wants to build a container terminal in the outer harbour of Świnoujście, which would have an impact on several Natura 2000 sites. These areas are under special protection by various European directives. Building on the 1991 Espoo Convention, neighbouring countries that may be affected and their public must be involved in a cross-border EIA before a project is approved if it is likely to have transboundary environmental impacts.

In this cross-border EIA procedure, the Polish Directorate General for Environmental Protection (GDOS) responded on 24 July 2023 to the German objections and comments of 24 February 2023 and sent additional documents. In summer, the complete EIA report was also published in Poland for the first time. Further information (in German).

However, the landward consequences for the nature reserves around the Świna estuary and the Szczecin Lagoon – which are both crucial for the reproduction of several fish species and thus for the regeneration of the fish population of the Odra river – have not yet been investigated.

The Polish press recently reported that the 500-metre-wide, 17-metre-deep and 70-kilometre-long entrance is to be relocated to the east in the hope of making a cross-border EIA superfluous. These modified plans have not yet been published. Regarding the alleged EU funding, on 12 September 2023 I sent an urgent written question to the European Commission. In March 2022, together with MEP Helmut Scholz, I published a study regarding the environmental impact of the container port.

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