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English Section

Polish union to protest outside top EU court over disputed mine

24.09.2021 15:00
The head of Poland’s Solidarity trade union, Piotr Duda, on Friday said his group would next month stage a protest outside the European Union’s Court of Justice, which fined Poland earlier this week for failing to halt a disputed lignite mine near the Czech border.
Piotr Duda, leader of Polands Solidarity trade union.
Piotr Duda, leader of Poland's Solidarity trade union.Photo: PAP/Maciej Kulczyński

The Luxembourg-based court (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 Republic.

Speaking to the media in the village of Mysłakowice, southwestern Poland, on Friday, Duda noted that his union organisation opposed the Luxembourg-based court’s previous ruling in May for Turów to be halted. 

“Now, as trade unionists, not just Solidarity, we must take hard measures because the soft ones have run out," he vowed.

Duda announced that members of his union would travel to the EU’s “court of injustice” on October 22 and "order it to close down—just as the CJEU wants to close our workplaces, mines, power stations and cut access to energy.”

“Those in Luxembourg will learn about the power of the Polish worker, of the Polish miner,” Duda added, as quoted by Polish state news agency PAP.

Solidarity also vowed to notify prosecutors that the EU court’s Vice-President Rosario Silva de Lapuerta "may have broken the law" with the latest verdict.

The union claims the ruling "endangers the lives and health of the workers" at the Turów mine and an accompanying power plant, as well as the population of the nearby town of Bogatynia.

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 the accompanying power plant guaranteed the supply of electricity to “millions of people, as well as many schools and hospitals,” which, after 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,” Morawiecki stated at the time.

He 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.

The EU court ruled on September 20 that 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.

(pm/gs)

Source: PAP, TVP Info