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EC finds way to make good on Poland’s Turow mine penalty

| 2022-02-08 2 min read

EC finds way to make good on Poland’s Turow mine penalty

Reading Time: 2 minutes

The European Commission (EC) will withhold approximately EUR 15 million in EU funding from Poland for its refusal to pay fines issued by the European Court of Justice (ECJ). For months Warsaw ignored an ECJ order to pay a daily fine of EUR 500,000 for its refusal to shut down the highly polluting Turow coal mine, after Czechia had filed a complaint against it in the European court in February 2021. The EUR 15 million payment tranche covers Warsaw’s unpaid fees from 20 September until 19 October 2021.

While Poland and Czechia managed to settle their differences over the mine last week, the EC says Warsaw is still obliged to pay the fines, which now total around EUR 70 million. Poland has been notified of the offsetting of payments to cover what it owed in the Turow case, an EC spokesperson said on Tuesday. It will be the first time the EC has ever withheld funds in a such a way, according to Commission spokesman Balazs Ujvari, who told Polish website Onet that “the EC is fulfilling its legal obligation to collect financial penalties imposed by the court”.

Last week Czechia and Poland signed a bilateral agreement on the lignite mine in western Poland, allowing it to continue operations. Poland agreed to pay EUR 45 million towards new infrastructure in Czech regions over the border from the facility, and also monitor the mine, build groundwater barriers and establish a ‘project fund’. The following day, Czechia withdrew its complaints regarding the Polish mining operation to the ECJ.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki called this “the end of the issue”, but legal experts noted that the bilateral agreement broke EU environmental law. Government spokesman Piotr Muller, said Poland will do everything in its power to challenge the EC, given last week’s bilateral deal on Turow. ECJ decisions had “gone beyond the EU treaties and violated the treaty guarantees of energy security”, Muller told the Polish Press Agency. Separately, the ECJ has also fined Poland EUR 1 million per day for continuing to punish judges engaging in what the authorities deemed “political activity”.

Referring to the Commission’s method of getting Poland to pay up on the Turow fines, Green Member of the European Parliament Daniel Freund tweeted “Good to see the Commission being firm on this one. If you do not respect EU law there have to be costly consequences.”

Source: Politico, Notes From Poland