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 brown-coal mine near the Czech border.
Wojciech Ilnicki, who leads the Solidarity union at Turów, said in a comment that the court’s ruling “undermines Poland’s reasons for being in the EU," the energetyka24.com website reported.
Ilnicki added that if “one EU judge” can make a decision that could render one of Poland’s largest energy firms bankrupt and threaten the country’s energy and economic security, then the European community is “fiction” or “even a farce,” the energetyka24.com website reported.
The union's statement, which energetyka24.com said was carried by the tysol.pl website, called on the government to “reject the CJEU’s ruling and not pay the penalty” as well as “stop paying Poland’s membership fee if necessary.”
The costs and benefits of being in the EU “must be reassessed,” the union argued, "especially in view of an imminent steep rise in energy costs, due to the bloc’s crazy climate policy," energetyka24.com reported.
Solidarity added it was preparing “drastic protests,” some of them “on an international scale,” according to the website.
Top EU court's verdict 'faulty, aggressive, harmful'
On Tuesday, Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki told a news conference the CJEU verdict was “faulty, extremely aggressive and extremely harmful,” as well as “absolutely out of proportion."
He vowed Poland would “pursue every legal and other avenue” to prove the "disproportionality" of the decision, stressing that “it remains to be seen” whether Warsaw would indeed be forced to pay the fine.
Morawiecki also said the Turów mine and an accompanying power plant guaranteed the supply of electricity to “millions of people, as well as many schools and hospitals,” which, under the CJEU's ruling, would be "deprived of energy and heat for the winter."
“We cannot allow the health and lives of the Polish people to be put in danger by a verdict like this,” he stated.
Morawiecki argued the dispute was dragging on because the Czechs “lacked good faith” to strike an agreement due to upcoming elections.
On Monday, government spokesman Piotr Müller told reporters Poland was working to reach an amicable settlement with the Czech Republic and that bilateral talks over Turów had continued through the day.
Polish Climate and Environment Minister Michał Kurtyka told a news conference earlier on Monday that the government in Warsaw was working to resolve the conflict "in the interests of the local community."
'Daily penalty payment of EUR 500,000'
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 court ruled Warsaw has to pay half a million euros a day to Brussels, for defying an order to halt operations at Turów.
The CJEU said 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.