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Poland declines to halt contentious mine despite EU penalty

20.09.2021 22:45
Poland on Monday refused to halt its disputed Turów lignite mine on the border with the Czech Republic despite a decision by the EU's top court to impose a steep fine on Warsaw for keeping the facility running.
Polish government spokesman Piotr Mller.
Polish government spokesman Piotr Müller.Photo: PAP/Wojciech Olkuśnik

The EU Court of Justice (CJEU) said on Monday that Poland must pay a EUR 500,000 daily fine to the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, for defying an order to halt operations at the Turów lignite mine near the Czech border, news agencies reported.

The Polish government spokesman, Piotr Müller, told reporters that the country would keep the disputed facility open so as “not to undermine the stability of the Polish power system.”

He said the brown coal from the mine was needed for the local power plant, which accounts for 7 percent of the country’s energy production, supplying electricity to millions of people, from households to schools, hospitals and businesses.

Müller called the EU court’s penalty “disproportionate” and “not backed up by facts.” 

He added that Poland was working to reach an amicable settlement with the Czech Republic and that bilateral talks over Turów had continued on Monday.

Polish Climate and Environment Minister Michał Kurtyka told a news conference earlier in the day that the government in Warsaw was working to resolve the conflict "in the interests of the local community."

The dispute between the two neighbouring countries went international when the Czech Republic filed for an injunction with the EU Court of Justice in March, Poland’s state PAP news agency reported.

The injunction said that Turów, an open-cast lignite mine on the Polish-Czech border, was draining groundwater away from surrounding areas and harming Czech citizens.

Subsequently, Prague said in June it would call on Europe’s top court to fine Poland EUR 5 million daily for not complying with an order to halt extraction at the open-pit mine.

On Monday, the EU judges ruled Warsaw has to pay half a million euros per day to Brussels, for defying an order to halt operations at Turów.

The EU court said that the Turów mine, run by Poland’s state-run energy company PGE, continued to operate despite a ruling to stop mining activities immediately until a final judgement is delivered.

"Poland is ordered to pay the European Commission a daily penalty payment of EUR 500,000 because it has not ceased lignite extraction activities at Turów mine," the European Court of Justice said in a statement.

It added: "Such a measure appears necessary in order to strengthen the effectiveness of the interim measures decided upon in the order of 21 May 2021 and to deter that member state from delaying bringing its conduct into line with that order."

The Polish government spokesman said earlier this year that the Czech government had adopted a negotiation procedure to terminate the dispute and ensure a speedy deal between the two neighbouring countries.


Source: PAP, Reuters