Since the beginning of my mandate, I have been following the Polish government's plans for a huge container terminal in the outer harbour of Świnoujście and have been in regular contact with those affected living on the island of Usedom.
Now, the General Directorate for Environmental Protection of the Republic of Poland has transmitted the documentation of the environmental impact assessment (link in German) to the Ministry of Economics of Mecklenburg-West Pomerania and has asked for the opening of the process for administrative and public participation in Germany.
Until February 24th, citizens can comment on this documentation – more information here.
The Oder is not the Rhine!
This report predicts that there will be no cross-border impact of the port project on Natura 2000 protected areas – I have strong doubts about that! A study I commissioned last year came to the opposite conclusion: Massive impairments are to be expected, for Usedom, the Bodden and even as far as Rügen! The plans for the container terminal would have a negative impact on several Natura 2000 areas, which for good reason have European protection status. They are essential for the functioning of several adjacent ecosystems.
One of the reasons given for the interference with nature through the port project is the port’s economic importance in view of the plans for developing the Oder River into a waterway. However, various judicial proceedings are already underway targeting the environmental impact assessment for this project, and the plans in general. At the end of last year, an administrative court in Warsaw even imposed a construction stop – nevertheless, dredging continues on the Polish side and the idea of an Oder-Danube-Elbe canal is being floated. But it is clear that the Oder is not a Rhine! Its natural conditions make it unsuitable as a waterway, and climate change, which more and more often causes low water levels, makes it even less suitable. It is therefore simply unnecessary to expand the port in Świnoujście to the dimensions foreseen in the planning.
The massive fish and mollusc die-off last summer has shown the consequences of repeatedly prioritising economic interests over environmental protection. The Polish PiS government must now finally engage in a serious exchange. There should be joint discussions with the states of Mecklenburg-West Pomerania and Brandenburg on how economic development of the region and nature conservation can be combined. So far, unfortunately, it does not look like this is going to happen. This is proven by the fact that there was apparently no German participation in this cross-border procedure in the form of a scoping meeting. I have asked the government of Mecklenburg-West Pomerania in a letter (link in German) to demand greater German participation in the process.
Based on the Espoo Convention of 1991, neighbouring states must be involved in a cross-border environmental impact assessment (EIA) before the approval of a project, if it can be assumed that the project may have transboundary environmental impacts. As for Poland and Germany, the German-Polish EIA agreement regulates the concrete procedural steps. Last autumn, following pressure from our side, the state government of Mecklenburg-West Pomerania insisted on being involved in a cross-border environmental impact assessment. In such cross-border procedures, usually both sides first jointly determine the subject matter, scope and methods of these environmental impact assessments in a so-called "scoping meeting." To my knowledge, no such a meeting has yet taken place.