An informal, cross-party alliance of human and minority rights activists, environmentalists, church representatives, youth and student organizations, artists, writers, scientists and politicians, united in support of the people of Horno in their fight against enforced resettlement and the destruction of their ancient Sorb village.
Supported by associations representing the four national minorities in Germany: DOMOWINA - Bund Lausitzer Sorben e.V. (Sorbs), Friesenrat (Friesians), Sydslesvigsk Forening (Danes), Central Council of German Sinti and Roma
The fight to save the Sorb village of HORNO (Sorb: Rogow) in the Lausitz region of eastern Germany, which has been abandoned to private strip-mining interests by the State Government of Brandenburg, has entered its final phase.
Since 1977 - and particularly since the collapse of the GDR in 1990, that promised an end to the wholesale sacrifice of Sorb villages to lignite mining (73 Sorb villages were destroyed between 1945 and 1989) - the people of Horno have fought incessantly (see Background Paper below) against enforced resettlement and the destruction of their thousand-year-old village, which, in 1993, was put under a preservation order by the Brandenburg State Office for the Preservation and Protection of Historic Monuments, because of its historic settlement structure and appearance!
A large number of legal battles have been fought by Horno, both in the Administrative Courts against the strip-mining company LAUBAG and its mining permits, and also at the State Constitutional Court in Potsdam against the incompetent State Government, which, nine years after commencing planning procedures, has still not succeeded in passing a binding lignite plan for the Jänschwalde strip-mine that conforms with the Brandenburg State Constitution. Twice, in 1995 and 1998, the State Constitutional Court upheld claims by Horno and the neighbouring village of Grießen, and declared Government lignite plans to be unconstitutional and therefore null and void. As a result, there is still no legal basis for the enforced resettlement of the Horno people.
The lack of a legal basis for resettlement has not however prevented LAUBAG from continuing both its strip-mining activities and its psychological warfare against the people of Horno. LAUBAG excavators, just 1,500 metres from the village, are now churning away at the Horno Hill, whose fertile earth is transported by conveyor belt some five kilometres in a southerly direction, where it is then tipped into a disused mining site, where the Sorb village of Weißagk once flourished.
LAUBAG sells nearly all its lignite to the electricity utility VEAG, and this power producer is effectively bankrupt, having wasted 16 billion DM since 1990 in the construction and modernization of lignite-burning power plants in eastern Germany, thus only aggravating excess capacities on the electricity market. Now VEAG and LAUBAG are currently being sold for a combined total of only 2.9 billion DM (!) to the Hamburger Elektrizitäts-Werke (HEW), whose controlling shareholder is the Swedish state-owned utility VATTENFALL. For the cost of constructing just a single block at the Boxberg lignite power plant, VATTENFALL is acquiring the whole of VEAG, including "the world's most modern" lignite power plant at Schwarze Pumpe on the Brandenburg/Saxony border, Boxberg, Lippendorf near Leipzig, and the entire East German high-voltage distribution grid, with the mining company LAUBAG thrown in for free.
It is the intention of the Horno Alliance to ensure by concerted pressure of international public opinion, that VATTENFALL be persuaded that the destruction of Horno would be a fundamental violation of the minority rights of the Sorb people, and is therefore not in its best interest; that instead the Jänschwalde strip-mine should bypass Horno. VATTENFALL must also not be permitted to hide behind HEW and the German operating companies. VATTENFALL calls the tune at HEW; it must also bear the responsibility for policies pursued!
The bypassing of Horno is technically feasible, it would have a neutral effect on employment, and - bearing in mind that VATTENFALL is buying LAUBAG/ VEAG through HEW for a song, and that the Horno problem was known to HEW/VATTENFALL before the contracts were formulated - it remains financially justifiable. The LAUBAG argument, that saving Horno would immediately force the Jänschwalde mine to close with the result of huge job losses, is completely unfounded and just another example of the lies and deceit that have characterized the decade-long LAUBAG campaign against Horno.
The bypassing of Horno brings with it considerable hardship over a period of several years for the inhabitants. Yet they are willing to bear this hardship in order to save their village.
It is the intention of the Horno Alliance to demonstrate that the cost to VATTENFALL of the wilful and unnecessary destruction of Horno and the enforced resettlement of its people will constitute an incalculable loss of image and goodwill. A recent critical report on VATTENFALL on Swedish television highlighted the company's plans for international expansion. Were the Sorb village of Horno to be destroyed and its people forcibly resettled, these plans would backfire into the face of Sweden's long-standing reputation for environmental protection, social justice and human rights.
The Horno Alliance therefore launches this international appeal
to environ-mental organizations, human and minority rights groups,
youth organizations, church communities and organizations, artists,
writers, journalists, scientists and politicians, as well as bodies
representing ethnic minorities (including member organizations
of the Federal Union of European Nationalities [FUEV]):
What you can do!
Write letters of protest to VATTENFALL, demanding that Horno be
Lars G. Joseffson|
Chief Executive Officer
S-162 87 Stockholm
Fax: (-46) (0)8-725 0501
Write letters of protest to the Swedish Government:
S-103 33 Stockholm
Fax: (-46) (0)8-723 1171
demanding that influence be brought to bear on the state-owned VATTENFALL Company to ensure that Horno be spared, and at the same time demanding answers to the following questions:
Kindly send copies of all communications, together with offers of support, by e-mail, post or fax to the Horno Alliance.
You can also support Horno by making a badly-needed financial contribution to the
The courageous people of Horno have spent a huge amount of money over the last seven years pursuing major law suits against both the Brandenburg State Government and the LAUBAG mining company. Important cases are still pending before the Administrative Court in Brandenburg, the Brandenburg Constitutional Court and the Federal Constitutional Court, and a large annual legal bill has to be met.
The Brandenburg State Government robbed Horno of its independent municipal status with the "Horno Law", passed in 1997, as a result of which Horno no longer has direct access to public funds.
In order to continue the battle in the German courts, Horno is in urgent need of financial support. The fight to save Horno cannot be allowed to fail because of lack of funds. The Horno Alliance therefore appeals to Horno sympathizers - individuals and organizations - throughout Europe, to make a contribution to the Horno Fighting Fund, in order that the fight to save Horno can be pursued.
A registered association - Pro Horno/Rogow e.V. - has been formed for the purpose of channelling funds and support to the Horno community.
Those individuals and organizations wishing to make a financial
contribution towards the fight to save Horno are requested to
do so by international bank transfer to:
Volks- and Raiffeisenbank e.G. Forst|
Bank code: 180 627 58
Account No.: 11 36 135
"Pro Horno/Rogow e.V."
Or by cheque or international money order to:
Pro Horno/Rogow e.V.|
All contributions will be gratefully acknowledged and should be marked: "Horno Fighting Fund"
Initiator/Spokesman, Horno Alliance
Horno, March 2001
The English writer Michael Gromm, born in London in 1943, arrived in Guben on the German/Polish border in September 1992 with the intention of doing research for a family chronicle on the period 1942-92 in the divided city of Guben/Gubin. The day after his arrival, however, he discovered the early medieval Sorb village of Horno, eighteen kilometres to the south of Guben, and the lignite strip-mining industry.
In January 1993 he bought a small piece of land in Horno - a traffic island with three maple trees - in order to effectively support the villagers in their fight against forced resettlement and the destruction of Horno.
He was the founding chairman of the Round-Table Action Committee, "The Future of Guben", co-founder of the Federal Conference of Civic-Action Groups against Lignite Mining, and initiator of the youth action group "Geil auf Horno"['Horny for Horno']. In March 1993 he was made honorary citizen of Horno.
Six months after arriving in Guben, he postponed his project of writing a family chronicle to devote himself entirely to the fight for Horno's integrity. In 1995, it came to his notice that his name was of old Sorb origin. Having come to Guben to write a fictional account, he now discovered unexpected strands of his own biography. He is probably related to the Gromms who lived in Guben, east of the River Neiße, until 1945, when they were expelled from what became the Polish town of Gubin. In the former Sorb village of Niemasch Kleba - in English: 'you've no bread' - (now Chlebowa, Poland), fifteen kilometres north-east of Gubin, he stumbled across the life of another distant relative, Emil Gromm, who, until his disappearance in 1945 at the end of the Second World War, was miller, registrar of births and deaths, and chairman of the village council in Niemasch Kleba. In the old 'Gromm Mill' - that had been boarded up since the nationalization of private business in Poland in 1950 - he found old documents recording that Gromms had lived in the village as far back as the early 18th Century.
He has written two books - in German - on the Horno conflict: The first, "Horno - ein Dorf in der Lausitz - will leben", with photos from Roger Melis, was published by Dietz Verlag Berlin in 1995; the second, a political tale, "Im Schatten der schwarzen Steine", illustrated by Bernd A. Chmura, appeared in 1997 in his own Edition Dreieck Horno. He is currently working on a third book.
At the beginning of 1996 he initiated the "Horno Alliance".
Michael Gromm lives in Horno and Berlin.
The armies of economic miscalculation have convened in Horno. The eastern German power and mining industries, having fought in vain against competitors beyond their borders, are now directing their depleted strength towards purported foes within. Yet a handful of villagers have proven equal to their concerted attacks. Similar battles are mounting throughout Europe. Wherever minorities are the intended victims, let the Sorb village of Horno be a beacon of hope.
The early medieval village of Horno (in the Sorb language: Rogow) has been part of the traditional settlement area of the Sorb people for a thousand years. Their Slavic ancestors settled in Lusatia (German: Lausitz), near the present Polish/Czech border, well before Germanization. Of some 60,000 Sorbs, two-thirds are predominantly Catholic and live in the southerly State of Saxony, and one-third, predominantly Protestant and also known as Wends, living in the State of Brandenburg. The Sorbs have experienced the decimation of their settlement area and the dissipation of their language and culture as a result of the ruthless strip-mining of lignite (brown coal) during the course of the last century.
In the period from 1945-1989, 73 Sorb villages were destroyed and their inhabitants resettled in high-rise tenements along with migrants from all corners of the German Democratic Republic (GDR), who had flocked into the Lausitz attracted by work in the lignite mining industry. Through this brutal disruption of traditional rural life and the resulting enforced assimilation, Sorb culture was dealt an almost mortal blow.
In 1989, political metamorphosis in the GDR conveyed the promise that no further Sorb villages would be sacrificed to lignite mining. Apart from energy imports and nuclear reactors from the Soviet Union, the GDR was completely dependent on lignite mining for the generation of electricity and heat. Quite different conditions existed on the West German energy market. The Sorbs, and in particular the people of Horno (who had been informed in 1977 that their village was to be resettled in 1996), renewed their efforts to ensure that no further Sorb villages be destroyed. Their expectations initially appeared to be well founded. The protection of Sorb settlements from further destruction by lignite mining was enshrined in the new Constitution (Article 25) of the State of Brandenburg.
What they could not foresee, however, was that not only lignite mining and electricity-production in the Lausitz would shortly be privatised, but also energy policy itself. The destruction of Horno and the resettlement of its inhabitants were stipulated in the purchase contract from 1994 for the lignite-mining company, Lausitzer Braunkohle AG (LAUBAG). Thereafter, LAUBAG and its new West German shareholders were able to dictate conditions to the State Government, whose Environment Minister would admit to Horno represen-tatives in 1997: "I'm being blackmailed!"
The solution to the problem of the constitutional protection of Sorb settlements from further destruction was characteristic for the morally-bankrupt State Government, whose mendacious dealings with the people of Horno have consistently reflected the vested interests of the mining industry and the mining union. The lie was propagated that the destruction of Horno was necessary in order to save jobs in the mining industry. The truth is, that more than 90% of jobs in Lausitz lignite mining in 1990 have since been lost in a never-ending process of rationalization that has had nothing to do with Horno.
The Brandenburg Government decided that Article 25 of the State Constitution did indeed protect the Sorb settlement area, but not the settlements, that is, the villages, themselves! Horno could therefore be sacrificed, and its inhabitants forcibly relocated within the settlement area, without the State Constitution being contravened! This shameful reinterpretation of the State Constitution clearly revoked the intention of its founding fathers to protect Sorb villages from further destruction by lignite mining; but this was the only argument the Government could possibly put forward when the matter came before the State Constitutional Court, as would inevitably happen. The Government thereafter pursued a steady build-up of political pressure to ensure that the State Constitutional Court judges - all nominated by the political parties and elected by the State Parliament (Landtag) - toed the line.
The fight to save Horno has never revolved solely around the 300 or so inhabitants of the village, contrary to the claims of the Government, LAUBAG and the mining union ("Horno or 70,000 jobs!"). The village of Horno, atop the Horno Hill (100 metres above the River Neiße), is the gateway to the area around the border-city of Guben, a region rich in lakes and forests that has up to now been spared the ravages of strip-mining. Respecting the integrity of Horno would protect the Guben region from devastation. Such a course would also provide the local population with some hope of economic recovery in the future. The city of Guben, for instance, with some 30.000 inhabitants in 1990, lost 10,000 jobs after German reunification to plant closures in the chemical and textiles industries.
Whereas it had once been official GDR policy to sacrifice the whole region of south-east Brandenburg to strip-mining, the West German energy concerns were given a free hand to carve up the East German lignite mining and electricity-generating industry in line with their own interests. Their main interest, of course, was in getting their hands on the high-voltage distribution grid.
Of the 17 strip-mining sites in operation in 1989 only four - three in Brandenburg and one in Saxony - were mining lignite in the year 2000. In many traditional mining areas, strip mines - and the power stations they supplied - were closed down. In the case of the Greifenhain mine, where villages had already been resettled, 200 million tonnes of lignite might still be mined today. The West German mining executives had early access to the old GDR mining plans, and gave no consideration whatsoever to the possibility of saving the villages still on the devastation agenda. Their attitude was clearly spelled out: If you're against the destruction of villages, then you're against lignite, and if you're against lignite you're for the loss of jobs in the region. However, not jobs but profits were their real motive. Bypassing Horno, for instance, might mean that profits would be cut by 100-300 million DM spread over six years. As a result, no attempt at all was made by either LAUBAG or the Brandenburg State Government to avoid the destruction of centuries-old settlements.
Furthermore, the West German mining executives who arrived in the Lausitz in the early 1990s patently knew nothing of the existence of the Sorb minority, whose traditional homeland had been systematically devastated in the course of the previous forty-five years of strip-mining. Local mining managers, on the other hand, were well aware of the problem (in 1990 the Jänschwalde mine was operating right in the middle of the Sorb village of Grötsch (Sorb: GroĽico), causing unbearable hardship to the inhabitants), but their only interest was in the continuation of strip mining, at whatever cost. And politicians in the newly-founded Brandenburg Parliament (Landtag) turned a blind eye to the problem, in the hope of outlasting it. The outcome was, that while the Brandenburg Government was pushing through the new State Constitution with its unequivocal protection of Sorb villages, at the same time it was drafting lignite plans that foresaw the destruction of Horno and other villages! With the privatisation of LAUBAG in 1994 it was announced - and is maintained up to the present day - that five of the previous seventeen strip-mines would remain in operation in the long term. But, as with "job security", this too is a falsity.
At a meeting in Potsdam at the end of 1993 between representatives of the State Government and the head of the Federal Government's Treuhandanstalt, respon-sible for the sale of the East German lignite industry, it was agreed that only three lignite mines should have a long-term future. This agreement has never been officially acknowledged, to avoid arousing mining workers. Yet in the LAUBAG purchase contract of 1994, details of which have leaked out over the years, the new owners were given the option of rescinding on two of the five so-called long-term lignite mines. One of the five mines - the Reichwalde mine in the Saxonian part of the Lausitz - no longer produces lignite and has officially been on "hold" since the late 1990s. A second mine - the Cottbus-North mine in Brandenburg - is expected to be closed down once the neighbouring Jänschwalde mine, now threatening Horno, has proceeded over the Horno Hill in the direction of Guben.
The Jänschwalde mine, that supplies the nearby power station of the same name, burnt 25 million tonnes of lignite in the year 2000 and thus emitted 23 million tonnes of CO2 into the earth's atmosphere! The reality of continuing "disemployment" in lignite mining is amply illustrated at the Jänschwalde mining site, where mining itself is totally mechanized, and no more than a handful of people are directly employed on site at any one time. Approximately 40% of LAUBAG employees work in administration, another 35-40%% in the service area (transport, drainage, maintenance). These LAUBAG employees are being told - not only by their employer, but also by the State and Federal Governments - that now that LAUBAG and VEAG (the power-plant operator) have been acquired by HEW/VATTENFALL, their jobs will be safe. As if HEW/VATTENFALL would not continue with rationalization! The truth of the matter is that the miners and power-station workers have been consistently deceived by the State Government, their employers and, not least, their own mining union officials. Little more than 3,000 people are currently (2001) employed by LAUBAG in Brandenburg (in the Lausitz as a whole the figure is around 5,000). By 2006 the Brandenburg figure will probably be no more than 1,500.
Planning procedures for lignite strip-mining are carried out on two levels: the mining company submits outline mining plans (Rahmenbetriebspläne) for each mine to the State Mining Office (Oberbergamt), which has to approve them within the terms of the Federal Mining Act (Bundesberggesetz). Bearing in mind that the Oberbergamt is subordinate to the State Ministry of Economics, it is not surprising that it effectively colludes with the mining company. This circum-stance is regularly reflected in the public statements of its officials.
The second planning level concerns the integration of mining company plans into the State Government's regional planning. The appropriate authority in Brandenburg rests with the Environment Ministry, which oversees the activities of the responsible Lignite Committee (Braunkohlenausschuss), a regional, indirectly-elected body responsible for drawing up a lignite plan for each mining site.
In 1994, Horno filed its first court suit against LAUBAG's outline mining plan for the Jänschwalde mine, which had been approved in 1993. In a scandalous disregard for the Federal Constitution, which guarantees the right to be heard at court, the Horno suit was ignored - also because of its political implications! - by the Administrative Court (Verwaltungsgericht) in Cottbus for five years, being finally heard, and dismissed, at the end of 1998.
Horno also filed suit in 1994 with the Brandenburg State Constitutional Court against the lignite plan for the Jänschwalde mine, which had been passed by the State Government in the previous year. In June 1995, the Constitutional Court declared the lignite plan to be unconstitutional and thus null and void, because the plan foresaw the dissolution of the Horno municipality. For such an act to be executed against the express will of the village inhabitants, the State Constitution required a specific law to be passed by the Landtag, that in fact did not exist. This was Horno's first major success in its fight to save the community.
Two years later, in June 1997, the Brandenburg Parliament passed the so-called "Horno Law", which robbed Horno of its municipal status and incorporated it into the neighbouring community of Jänschwalde. Up to this point, the Horno village council had steadfastly refused all demands to discuss resettlement, maintaining that the destruction of Horno was economically unnecessary, environmentally harmful and socially disruptive. This policy had proven most helpful to the Horno cause. But the "Horno Law" now forced Horno to give up its total refusal to talk, simply because the "Horno Law" not only dissolved the municipality, it also laid down a relocation site for "New Horno". The new site was just a few hundred metres from the Jänschwalde power plant, and would have become mandatory were Horno not to choose an alternative site. In a remarkable demonstration of discipline and leadership the Horno representatives - led by the indefatigable Bernd Siegert, who, with the overwhelming support of the villagers, has spearheaded the campaign to save Horno since 1990 - painstakingly carried out a number of polls of village opinion on the resettle-ment issue. The government poll, laid down in the "Horno Law", was first boycotted; but with a view to keeping the community together, 60 per cent of the Horno people ultimately voted for a site 18 km south, near the town of Forst, as a "backup site", should resettlement prove to be inevitable. A number of people did not want to relocate to Forst under any circumstances and instead chose the nearby town of Peitz for their enforced relocation. The LAUBAG Company, which for years had sought by all manner of means to split the Horno community and destroy the solidarity and resistance of the population, seized upon this opportunity to put pressure on those families not desiring to relocate to Forst, to sell out.
In the meantime, Horno had again filed suit with the State Constitutional Court against the Brandenburg Government's "Horno Law". Furthermore, one of the political parties in the Brandenburg Landtag - the democratic socialists PDS, of whom a majority had rejected the "Horno Law" - also filed suit before the State Constitutional Court, claiming that the new law violated Article 25 of the Brandenburg Constitution ("Rights of the Sorbs"). The central argument on the Government's part was, as already mentioned, that the Brandenburg Constitution protected the Sorb settlement area but not the settlements themselves, and that the "rights of the Sorbs" were not subjective, basic rights but rather objective constitutional aims, such as "the right to work".
Not only did the Constitutional Court have to decide the issue of Article 25; there was a clear constitutional requirement concerning the parliamentary passage of legislation. In short, the Court had to be convinced that during the legislative process all arguments pro and contra the proposed bill had been accounted for and "weighed up" fairly. This constitutional requirement, a central pillar of parliamentary democracy, gave Horno supporters considerable cause for optimism, since the entire legislative process had been little more than a farce. Before the Horno bill had even been brought before parliament, two of the political parties - the governing Social Democrats (SPD) and the Christian Democrats (CDU), who together commanded a large parliamentary majority - had publicly declared that they would vote in favour of the "Horno Law". In effect, the legislative process was a mere formality, numerous hearings conducted just for the record, the result a forgone conclusion. Such a procedure constituted a flagrant violation of the constitution. The Constitutional Court judges could not fail to gather what was going on.
Towards the end of the legislative process, a major scandal erupted involving the SPD parliamentary leadership, which, in open contempt of parliamentary procedures, was determined to prevent any development that might hinder passage of the Horno bill. The parliamentary Environment Committee had the task of supervising passage of the Horno legislation through parliament; in particular, at the end of the legislative process, before the final vote in parliament, it had to draw all the strands of parliamentary inquiry together and make a recommendation to the Landtag. Shortly before the Environment Committee was to vote on its recommendation, the SPD leadership got wind of the fact that a majority of Committee members would vote against the Horno bill, and that the Committee would therefore recommend to Parliament that the bill be rejected. The result was, that the day before the key Committee meeting the SPD withdrew those of its Committee members, who intended to vote against the bill and replaced them with "yes"-men. The SPD leadership had actually requested CDU leaders to do likewise, but the CDU leadership had rejected this out of hand. The following day the Committee then decided by a majority of six to four votes to recommend the acceptance of the Horno bill. This scandal of the manipulation of the Environment Committee was carried and criticized by all newspapers, and could not escape the notice of the judges of the Constitutional Court.
During the year between the passing of the "Horno Law" and the hearing of the PDS case by the State Constitutional Court, political pressure on the Court increased. The mafia-like alliance of compromised State politicians, an unscrupulous mining industry that had a hundred years of experience in West Germany of neutralizing and utilizing politicians, and a mining trade union that had traditionally worked hand-in-hand with mining industry bosses, seized every opportunity to insinuate that the future not only of the mining industry, but also of the Lausitz region, and even of Brandenburg itself, depended on the destruc-tion of Horno.
The Brandenburg Prime Minister, Dr. Manfred Stolpe - who had reneged on his 1992 promise to the people of Horno, that he would not act against their wishes - was particularly adept at cultivating feelings of dependence, at "pocketing" and manipulating those who found themselves within his sphere of influence or who sought his confidence. This talent he had acquired in former GDR times, when over a period of many years he shuttled back and forth between the Protestant Church, which he served as President of the Consistory, and the Ministry for State Security (the "Stasi") for whom he was a trusted and highly-valuable informant; and not only the President of the State Constitutional Court, Dr. Peter Macke, was under the "Stolpe spell".
The Constitutional Court convened on March 19th, 1998 for the public hearing of the PDS suit against the "Horno Law". Over breakfast that morning the judges were able to read newspaper reports on a demonstration held the previous day in Jänschwalde, a "human chain" from LAUBAG divisional headquarters to the power station: "5,000 miners - shoulder to shoulder" (Lausitzer Rundschau) .... "demonstrating for their jobs and the destruction of Horno" (Berliner Morgenpost).
At the beginning of the hearing a change in procedure was immediately apparent. The judge who had been chosen by the Court to formally prepare its opinion, and who would normally present the facts of the case at the commence-ment of proceedings, remained silent. In his place, the court president, Dr. Macke, presented the case. It was an ominous foreboding. The judge in question, the internationally renowned jurist, Professor Dr. Karl-Heinz Schöneburg, was the only one of the nine judges who was unquestionably qualified to illuminate the intention of the founding fathers of the Brandenburg Constitution, because he had been one of them! When the Court's judgement was then later released, it was painfully evident that Schöneburg's unique insights into the history and substance of Article 25 of the Constitution had been completely disregarded.
The Court had earlier announced its intention of hearing not only the PDS suit, but also concurrently the complaints filed by Horno and the DOMOWINA (Association of Lausitz Sorbs). Only on March 19th, however, did it become apparent that the court intended to rule on the question of Sorb constitutional rights without hearing the Sorbs themselves. The DOMOWINA had not been invited to attend the hearing. At the end of the day's proceedings the court President announced that the court's decision would be made known on May 14th. Following the hearing, however, lawyers representing the DOMOWINA strenuously protested to the court that the Sorbs had not been given an opportunity to present their case. As a result, a second public hearing was set for June 18th.
When the Court reconvened on June 18th, 1998 for the purpose of hearing representations from the Sorbs, its 130-page judgement had already been written. Ten hours of futile discussion ensued, in the course of which a representative of the State government announced to the court - waving a paper in his hand - that the previous day an agreement had been initialled by representatives of LAUBAG and VEAG on the one side and the State government on the other, "guaranteeing 4,000 long-term jobs at the Jänschwalde complex - 2,500 at the Jänschwalde and Cottbus-North mining sites and 1,500 at the Jänschwalde power station". It was the government's trump card, but Dr. Norbert Kirch, from the Ministry of Economics, who played it, lied! An agreement - legally-non-binding and therefore worthless, as it turned out - had indeed been signed the previous day, but VEAG had not been a party to it! In fact, just a week earlier one of VEAG's directors, Dr. Dubslaff, had announced during a works meeting at the Jänschwalde power station, that in the long run only two-and-a-half times as many people would be employed at Jänschwalde as at the new power station at Schwarze Pumpe - where just 300 people were on the payroll!
In the early evening the Court announced its majority (7 to 2) verdict: The "Horno Law" did not violate the Brandenburg Constitution! Professor Schöneburg, in his minority opinion, described the court's decision as being "in violation of the Constitution". His voice trembling with emotion, he went on to say, that apart from himself, four other members of the Constitutional Committee that had formulated the Brandenburg Constitution were present in court that day, and that all shared with him the conviction that Article 25 of the Constitution was expressly intended to prevent the further destruction of Sorb villages.
Some time later one of the judges, Dr. Wolfgang Knippel, Vice-President of the State Constitutional Court, said of the Court's scandalous decision: "The important thing is that parliament remains capable of reaching decisions" ("Das Wichtigste ist, dass die Politik entscheidungsfähig bleibt")! An incredibly comment - with which Knippel in effect disqualified himself from office - bearing in mind that the Constitutional Court had been called upon to rule on nothing less than the constitutional rights of the Sorb minority; its implication, of course, was that nothing in the Brandenburg Constitution was sacred, the Constitution being subordinate to political expediency.
People who are well acquainted with the President of the Constitutional Court, have remarked to the author of this Paper, that deep down he is torn apart ("innerlich zerrissen") by the Court's decision. Rightly so! The President knows very well for what he and his colleagues are responsible: The Brandenburg legislature was white-washed, the Sorbs were betrayed and their constitutional rights trampled under-foot, and the people of Horno were left to their fate!
A revealing light was thrown on this infamous judgement by a decision of the Constitutional Court of the State of Saxony from July 2000 in a similar case: The village of Heuersdorf, near Leipzig, had, like Horno, fought for many years against devastation and enforced resettlement in the interest of lignite mining. In March 1998, the Saxony Landtag passed the so-called "Heuersdorf Law", which robbed the community of its municipal independence and incorporated the 270 inhabitants into the town of Regis-Breitingen. Heuersdorf filed a complaint against the new law with the Saxony Constitutional Court, which in July 2000 declared the "Heuersdorf Law" to be incompatible with the State Constitution, and thus null and void, necessitating the reinstatement of Heuersdorf's municipal independence. Of particular interest from the Horno point of view was the Court's reasoning for throwing out the "Heuersdorf Law":
The court explicitly criticized the bill that the government had put before the Landtag, which had "insufficiently taken account of changes made possible by the liberalization of the European electricity market, which had been evident at the time the bill was passed." The government's bill had been based in part "on the model of a closed utility market", a basic assumption that was "untenable". Increased electricity consumption in eastern Germany as a consequence of forecast economic growth - itself a matter of dispute between economists during the legislative process - "would not necessarily result in an increase in sales of VEAG electricity". What was missing in the government's bill - "an indispen-sable link" - was the prognosis that would justify the devastation of Heuersdorf. Not only had the consequences of the liberalization of the European electricity market been inadequately weighed up during the legislative process, but also the "uncertain chances of success regarding the introduction of an amendment to the Energy Economy Act, providing for the protection of lignite production and lignite-based electricity generation".
(Shortly after the Constitutional Court in Saxony had announced its decision, the State Government summoned representatives of leading economic institutes to Dresden, asking each of them to prepare an expert opinion confirming the economic necessity of destroying Heuersdorf. All institutes declined to do so!)
Faced, as it was, with the self-same arguments, the Brandenburg Constitutional Court could and should have declared the "Horno Law" to be unconstitutional, quite apart from the question of Sorb constitutional rights! Throughout the two-year legislative process the Government had repeatedly argued - in the face of contrary findings voiced by a number of renowned economic experts, they themselves supported by a minority of politicians from all parties - that the liberalization of the European electricity market would have no ill-effect on the market for lignite or electricity generated from lignite, and that the above-mentioned amendment to the Energy Economy Act would produce the desired result, namely the protection of the lignite market - which, in the course of events, it did not! The Government routinely rejected all expert opinion that would defeat its main purpose, namely the dissolution and devastation of Horno. The Government based its whole argumentation on the opinion of a single economic institute, which had been retained to provide the accommodating argumentation that the government required to achieve passage of the Horno bill. When Horno subsequently put the same arguments before the judges of the Constitutional Court, the majority of them likewise turned a deaf ear to any reasoning that weakened the Government's case.
The Brandenburg Constitutional Court could and should have declared the "Horno Law" to be unconstitutional. There are two reasons, why it did not do so: Firstly, the political pressure in the conservative State of Saxony was less pernicious than in social-democratic Brandenburg. Secondly, the majority of the Brandenburg judges lacked moral and professional integrity!
In December 1998, thirteen Horno citizens, together with the DOMOWINA, the Association of Lausitz Sorbs, filed suit at the European Court of Justice for Human Rights against the German Federal Government, claiming violation of their rights under the European Convention on Human Rights. They maintained that there was no justification for the infringement of these rights, in particular not on grounds concerning the public good, because there was no urgent necessity for either the mining of lignite under Horno or the production of electricity in the Jänschwalde power plant, that would legitimise the destruction of their home village of Horno. Furthermore, the supply of electricity was assured and jobs not endangered by bypassing Horno.
In May 2000 the European Court rejected the Horno suit. The Court confirmed a serious encroachment on the rights of the Horno people, but denied a violation of their human rights, because the Federal Government justified the devastation of Horno as being necessary to protect the well-being of the State of Brandenburg. The Court also judged the encroachment on the human rights of the Horno people to be reasonable, because they had been offered resettlement as a community just 20 kilometres away. So far as the property rights of the Horno people were concerned, the Court referred to legal processes before German courts, concerning expropriation, which were not yet exhausted. The Strasburg decision was a bitter blow for the people of Horno, especially because the Federal Government's response to the Horno suit had done nothing less than condone the Brandenburg Government's entire handling of the Horno dispute. So far as the property rights of the villagers were concerned, the Court's reasoning took no account of a key tactic on the part of both LAUBAG and the State Government, namely to force through the resettlement of Horno before the residents could fight against expropriation in the Courts (this would be the essence of a later suit filed at both the State and Federal Constitutional Court - see below).
Three months after the Constitutional Court decision from June 1998 the Brandenburg Government, as expected, passed a new lignite plan for the Jänschwalde mine. This time, in order to illustrate that it was not only Horno that had a vital interest in halting the Jänschwalde mine, it was the village of Grießen (Sorb: Grena), 2 km to the north of Horno, which filed suit with the State Constitutional Court. The threat to Grießen posed by the Jänschwalde mine is in a way even greater than that for Horno; for it is planned to narrowly bypass Grießen with the strip-mine, with the effect that the village with its two-hundred inhabitants will be forced to live in a narrow corridor between the strip-mine to the west and the River Neiße and Poland to the east. The Jänschwalde lignite plan is Grießen's death certificate. If the mine proceeds over the Horno Hill, Grießen will whither away, its inhabitants forced to leave their homes without any form of compensation, and without even the "opportunity" of resettlement. This was the basis of the Grießen lawsuit, but it was also claimed that the State Government's Lignite Committee was not democratically empowered, the Government having usurped the power of Parliament.
In June 2000, the State Constitutional Court granted the Grießen claim and declared the second Jänschwalde lignite plan to be unconstitutional and thus null and void, on the grounds that the Lignite Committee was inadequately democratically legitimized. But the Court failed to rule on the vital question of whether the lignite plan infringed Grießen's constitutionally guaranteed right of self-determination.
As a result of this latest ruling, in the absence of a legally-binding lignite plan for the Jänschwalde mine, there is no legal basis for either the resettlement of Horno or the effective isolation and slow death of Grießen. It is the Horno viewpoint, that without a legally-binding lignite plan, which takes account of constitutional provisions concerning Sorb settlements and regulates the expulsion and resettlement of the people of Horno, LAUBAG's outline mining plan is without legal basis. The problem is, that the scandalously-long delays in dealing with cases before the Administrative Court - the Federal Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe has described such delays as unconstitutional, because the constitutionally guaranteed right access to court is violated - effectively deny the people of Horno the right of having this matter decided at the highest level, the Federal Administrative Court (Bundesverwaltungsgericht).
The Administrative Courts bemoan their high workload and complain that they need more judges. This is undoubtedly true, but not the whole answer. When one considers that it took five years for the Administrative Court in Cottbus to hear Horno's suit against LAUBAG's outline mining plan, it is interesting to reflect upon the fact that after the CDU was fined 41 million DM by the President of the Federal Parliament (Bundestag) in 2000 because of illegal financial transactions, the appeal filed by the CDU with the Berlin Administrative Court was heard and decided within a couple of months! The Brandenburg Government, which has not only refused to appoint urgently-required additional judges, but even plans to reduce their number, is of course quite happy with the situation that its policies, such as in the case of Horno, cannot effectively be challenged at court. The President of the Brandenburg State Constitutional Court described the situation in an interview with the Berliner Zeitung on March 10th, 2001 as follows: "In no other Land in the new federal Länder [formerly the GDR] is the judiciary treated so badly as in Brandenburg". The State of Brandenburg was "threatened with a judicial crisis".
In the meantime, the Brandenburg Government has been working for a year on new legislation to comply with the Constitutional Court's ruling, and sometime in 2001 a lignite plan for the Jänschwalde mine will be approved for the third time. Under the proposed new law, however, parliament would delegate the decision on whether or not the resettlement of villages is "unavoidable" to the government, in contravention of the established principle (in German: Wesentlichkeitsprinzip), that far-reaching political decisions have only to be taken by elected representatives. As soon as the government again passes the lignite plan, Grießen will once more file suit at the State Constitutional Court, as will Horno as soon as the new law comes into force. For Horno, however, the situation is difficult, because it is dependent on the municipality of Jänschwalde, in which it is now incorporated, for support in filing suit, and in Jänschwalde both the State Government and LAUBAG exert considerably pressure to undermine support for Horno.
Horno has a number of lawsuits pending. At the Administrative Court in Cottbus a resident is fighting the compulsory acquisition of his woodland by LAUBAG. And suits have also been filed by a number of residents at both the State and the Federal Constitutional Court.
Since 1994, when suit was first filed with the Administrative Court in Cottbus against the Mining Office's approval of LAUBAG's outline mining plan, the Horno people have claimed violation of their property rights under the Federal Constitution. The Administrative Courts - that have a notorious reputation in Germany for their industry-friendly interpretation of federal mining law - have consistently refused to acknowledge that the outline mining plan impinges on the property rights of people threatened by the operation of the respective mine. The courts have routinely adopted the expedient view, that approval of the outline mining plan does nothing more than confirm the proposed operation of the strip-mine within certain geographic parameters - in the case of Horno, the running of the Jänschwalde mine over the Horno Hill with the resultant destruction of Horno - and does not entitle the mining company to destroy property in the path of the proposed mine, for example private property in Horno. This attitude circumvents the reality of the situation facing the people affected. The argument is, that it is not the outline mining plan that embodies the ultimate threat to private property - in Horno - but rather the subsequent technical plans to be submitted by LAUBAG, each covering a two-year period. Thus, it is only the LAUBAG technical plan for 2004/2005, detailing the destruction of property in Horno, which would open the way for legal redress against expropriation. Before then, the people of Horno have no way to initiate legal proceedings against expropriation; the first step lies with LAUBAG!
Yet in fact, LAUBAG's outline mining plan for Jänschwalde from 1992, approved by the State Mining Office, foresees the destruction of Horno and the resettlement of its inhabitants. Furthermore, this mining plan formed the basis for all subsequent State Government plans and decisions - including the Jänschwalde lignite plan and the "Horno Law" - concerning the expulsion of the Horno people from their homes and village. Most important of all, approval of the outline mining plan is the first major move in the mining company's plan to cajole and demoralize people living in the path of the strip-mine; it is the opening shot in a campaign of psychological warfare, whose intention it is to drive people out of their homes and villages. The resettlement of Horno is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2002.
LAUBAG mining excavators, approaching from a southerly direction, are now only 1,500 metres from Horno village. The Horno Hill is being dug up from under the feet of the Horno people, land and woodland in the hands of Horno families for centuries has been compulsory acquired, and LAUBAG is systematically destroying the village environs in an all-out attempt to force the Horno people into accepting resettlement (see also: "Undermining a Community" by Maurice Frank, Bł±d! Nie zdefiniowano zakładki.). The reasoning is quite simple: If the people of Horno succumb to the pressure and accept resettlement, they will have to dispose of their property to LAUBAG and rebuild their homes elsewhere. They will not be able to build houses in Forst and at the same time retain ownership of their property in Horno in order to fight against expropriation in the courts at a later date. LAUBAG will have achieved its aims without the risk of losing expropriation claims in the courts. Effectively, the Horno people are being robbed of their constitutional property rights with the connivance of both the government and the judiciary. This is the point that Horno has now put to the State and Federal Constitution Courts.
Despite the fact that LAUBAG mining excavators are within sight and earshot of Horno, the courageous villagers have not given up the fight. The resistance against expulsion is still very strong. The sixty families, who have decided to relocate to the town of Forst, should their effort to save Horno ultimately fail, have appointed a renowned Berlin lawyer to protect their interests and negotiate an "outline agreement for a possible resettlement" with LAUBAG. The overwhelming majority of these sixty families bluntly refuse, however, even when they have to move to Forst, to sell their homes in Horno to LAUBAG, or to buy houses from LAUBAG in Forst. If it comes to enforced resettlement, the people of Horno will accept nothing less than a one-to-one, new-for-old exchange. And - for the first time in the deplorable history of the destruction of villages for lignite mining in Germany - a real new village will have to be built. But that stage has not yet been reached. The fight goes on!
Horno, March 2001
In a Declaration initiated by the Sorb writer Jurij Koch and published in December 2000, fifty renowned German/Sorb writers, artists and journalists, among them Nobel Prize-winner Günter Grass, Christa Wolf, Volker Braun, Jurij Brezan, Stefan Heym, Daniela Dahn, Christoph Hein, Günter Gaus, Klaus Staeck and Franz Alt, called for the Sorb village of Horno to be saved.
The text of the Declaration is as follows:
According to plans of the Brandenburg State Government and the lignite-mining company LAUBAG, the village of Horno in the Lower Lausitz Sorb settlement area is to be resettled by the end of 2002 and then razed to the ground. The unyielding resistance of the village community over more than fifteen years and the rigid adherence to outdated energy concepts have led to a conflict situation, in which groups of people are set against each other. A compromise is necessary that leads to a balance of interests. The village of Horno, that is officially listed and protected, should be bypassed by strip-mining equipment. In this way not only could jobs be retained, but Horno also saved. With such a decision state politicians and LAUBAG managers would demonstrate, at the last minute, magnanimity and responsibility towards the environment in keeping with the times.
Volker Braun, Christa and Gerhard Wolf, Günter Grass, Christoph Hain, Jurij Koch, Franz Alt, Günter Gaus, Jurij Brezan, Klaus Staeck, Günter Drommer, Heinz Kahlau, Walter Kaufmann, Hannelore and Reimar Gilsenbach, Stefan Heym, Eva Schrittmacher, Grit Poppe, Daniela Dahn, Joochen Laabs, Thomas Kläber, Hellmuth Henneberg, Benedikt Dyrlich, Lia Pirskawetz, Richard Pietrass, Brigitte Burmeister, Mathias Körner, Jutta Schlott, Horst Rehberg, Wolf Spillner, Jürgen Leskien, Kristian Pech, Wolfgang David, Hans Müncheberg, Dieter Mucke, Reinhild Oelmüller, Gisela Kraft, Michael Gromm, Beate Morgenstern, Horst Mathies, Britta Mathies, Kurt Biesalski, Gisela Karau, Arnold Leifert, Monika Ehrhard-Lakomy, Reinhard Lakomy, Barbara Thalheim, Michael Vogt, Siegbert Kluwe, Paul Dörfler.
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