EU: Expert on fears of Poland being 'marginalised'
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The penalty was issued by the European Court of Justice after four months of Warsaw ignoring an earlier diktat to suspend operations at the Turow opencast mine on its border with the Czech Republic. The Polish government insisted it would continue to extract lignite, a low-quality brown coal, from the facility to protect the country’s energy security. The mine fuels a power station that provides about seven percent of the country’s electricity supply and employs some 3,600 people.
A government spokesman fumed: “The fine mentioned by the court is disproportionate to the situation and is not justified by facts.
“It undermines the ongoing process of reaching an amicable settlement.”
Justice minister Marcin Romanowski added: “The ECJ demands half a million daily fines from Poland for the fact that Poland did not leave its citizens without energy and did not close the mines overnight.
“It is judicial robbery and theft in broad daylight. You won’t get a cent.”
Poland and the Czech Republic are currently negotiating a compromise solution, according to Polish prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki.
He has previously said he wants an amicable end to the dispute.
Communities in Germany and the Czech Republic have long blamed Turow for draining their groundwater and causing dangerous levels of noise and air pollution.
The mine, owned by the state-owned utility company PGE, has been in operation since 1904.
The facility has had its mining licence extended until 2044 when the coal deposits are expected to be fully depleted.
The Czech Republic took the case to the ECJ in February and successfully argued that the mine was creating a cross-border environmental hazard.
Prague urged the Luxembourg-based court to fine Poland £4.3million a day for failing to halt the coal-mining operation.
While the ECJ did not fully back the Czech government, its judges did order that “due to the continuation of lignite mining in the Turow mine, Poland is obliged to pay the European Commission a periodic penalty payment of €500,000 a day.”
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It added: “Such a measure should be considered necessary to strengthen the effectiveness of the interim measure ordered by the order of May 21, 2021 and to prevent this member state from delaying its compliance with that provision.”
Poland relies on coal to meet up to 80 percent of its energy but has agreed to shut down its last mine by 2049.
This is in line with targets for emission cuts set by the EU.
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In 2019, coal burned at Turow’s power plant produced 5.5m tonnes of CO2, making it the fifth-larges source of greenhouse gas emissions in Poland.
The largest fine previously ordered by the ECJ is believed to have been in 2015 when the Italian government was told to pay £103,000 per day while failing to comply with a 2010 judgement on waste disposal.
Rome was also ordered to hand over a lump sum of £17 million at the time.
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