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PM: CzechRep wants to keep Labe River navigable

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Prague, Feb 29 (CTK) – The Czech Republic’s interest is to preserve the navigability of the Labe (Elbe) River, which is an important transport alternative, PM Bohuslav Sobotka said on Monday in reaction to the proceedings the EC has launched against Prague over its refusal to protect selected localities along the river.

On February 25, the EC launched the infringement proceedings over the Czech failure to put two areas, the Labe valleys near Hrensko, north Bohemia, and Prelouc, east Bohemia, on the Natura 2000 list of European protected localities.

Environment Minister Richard Brabec (ANO) informed the cabinet about the EC’s step on Monday,

The EC has demanded the listing of the two localities for several years.

Sobotka’s centre-left cabinet extended the Czech Natura 2000 list by adding some more localities in early February, but it decided not to list the two valleys due to protests that representatives of business, mainly the transport sector, put up against it.

For more than 20 years now, the state has considered building a weir on the Labe near Hrensko. Near Prelouc, an artificial Labe corridor is to be built to improve the navigability.

The projects are incompatible with the localities’ Natura 2000-listing.

“Our interests include the economic effectiveness of the Labe, the preservation of its navigability. We consider the Labe an important transport alternative,” Sobotka (Social Democrats, CSSD) said after the cabinet meeting on Monday.

“In the past years and decades, a significant sum of public money was spent to improve the Labe’s navigability in the Czech Republic,” Sobotka said, adding that this was one of the main reasons why the cabinet decided not to put the two valleys on the list of protected localities.

Now it is up to the Environment Ministry to convey Prague’s arguments to the EC, Sobotka said.

He said the government approved the mandate for Brabec to explain the reasons to Brussels. “I think the reasons are strong,” Sobotka added.

The EC’s pilot proceedings against Prague, which precede the start of the infringement proceedings, continued for several years until last Thursday.

The infringement proceedings would continue with further steps if the Czech Republic failed to meet the EC’s requirement. If it did not meet it at all, the EC may sue the country, which could be punished with financial sanctions or the withdrawal of EU subsidies.

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