Poland refuses to pay fines for Turów mine, agrees to reduced payments from EU funds

A view of Turow cooling towers of the coal fired power station near the Turow lignite mine, operated by PGE company, in Bogatynia, Poland, 14 June 2021. [EPA-EFE/MARTIN DIVISEK]

The Polish government has rejected the European Commission’s order to pay outstanding fines for not complying with the EU Court of Justice’s ruling to stop the activity of the lignite mine in Turów, which was the subject of the clash between Poland and the Czech Republic. However, the government did agree to receive reduced payments from the EU budget.

Poland owes the EU more than €50 million in cumulative daily fines. The Commission said last week that two summons to pay fines imposed on the Turow lignite mine had been sent to Poland and that it had not yet received any money.

Commission spokesperson Balazs Ujvari said on Thursday at a press conference that a “standard procedure” had been launched concerning this issue by sending a request for payment. A first request was sent on 10 November 2021.

Since the payment was not received within the 45-day time frame, a reminder letter was sent with a 15-day deadline, which had not yet expired.

Should the government fail to pay the fines, the EU Commission said it would recover the money from the penalties and that this would be done by deducting the sum mentioned in the first request from the payments Poland receives from the EU funds.

The government has been clear that it will not pay the fines. “If the Commission wants to dock [€50 million] from the EU money allocated to Poland, which is in our view illegal under the EU law, it can obviously do so, but for us, the most important is the energy security of Polish people,” said government’s spokesman Piotr Müller.

The government “can afford” reduced payments from the EU budget if this will make Poland avoid the consequences of the mine’s closure, Müller added. The mine’s closure would be “cutting several million people from the electricity, Müller also said.

Last year, the Czech Republic sued Poland before the EU Court of Justice in Luxembourg over the Turów mine, which is located near the Czech border, and Prague says has an adverse effect on groundwater in the region.

The Cout of Justice imposed on Poland a daily €500,000 fine for having not complied with the interim measure and refusing to close the mine.

(Aleksandra Krzysztoszek | EURACTIV.pl)

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