Poland refuses to shut down contested coal mine despite sanction from EU court

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The Turow surface coal mine operated by the PGE company is seen in Bogatynia, Poland on June 15, 2021. Photo taken on June 15, 2021. REUTERS / David W Cerny

BRUSSELS / WARSAW, Sept. 20 (Reuters) – Poland pledged to keep its disputed Turow coal mine in operation on Monday despite orders to pay a daily fine of 500,000 euros ($ 585,550) to the European Commission for challenging an earlier court decision to stop operations.

The highest European court, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), based in Luxembourg, ordered the sanction on Monday.

It follows a request from the Czech Republic, which is locked in a dragging dispute with Poland over the Turow surface mine which sits next to their shared border. The Czech government says the mine is damaging its communities.

The mine, which produces lignite, or lignite, has been in operation for over a century, but has recently expanded further towards the Czech border. Read more

The sanction order could put pressure on Warsaw to seek a resolution with Prague after bilateral talks began in June on technical improvements and measures to limit damage to water levels, noise and weather conditions. An agreement should end any legal dispute.

The Polish government said the sanction imposed by the EU court on Monday had undermined those talks, and said Turow, a major source of jobs and electricity in his region, would continue to operate.

“The fine referred to by the Court of Justice of the European Union is disproportionate to the situation and is not justified by the facts,” the Polish government said in a statement.

“This undermines the ongoing process of reaching an amicable settlement.”

The court order comes amid other disputes Warsaw faces with the European Union, largely over the rule of law. Read more

The Czech Republic has lodged its grievances against Turow with the Commission, which last year took legal action, claiming that Warsaw had violated EU law by extending the life of the mine.

The country has also taken its case to the CJEU and won the support of the judges for a temporary order to halt Turow’s operations until a final judgment.

“JUDICIAL THEFT”

When Warsaw rejected the judgment, Prague requested a daily fine of 5 million euros.

The court agreed on Monday, but set the fine much lower.

“Such a measure appears necessary to strengthen the effectiveness of the provisional measures decided in the ordinance of May 21, 2021 and to dissuade this Member State from delaying the compliance of its behavior with this ordinance”, declared the judges.

Prague welcomed the sanction but said it still wanted to reach an amicable settlement.

Some Polish officials strongly rejected the order.

“The CJEU 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,” said the deputy minister Justice Marcin Romanowski on Twitter.

“This is forensic theft and theft in broad daylight. You won’t get a dime.”

($ 1 = € 0.8539)

Reporting by Foo Yun Chee in Brussels and Anna Koper in Warsaw; additional reporting by Anna Wlodarczak-Semczuk in Warsaw and Jason Hovet in Prague; Writing by Jason Hovet; Editing by Mark Porter and Jan Harvey

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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