Europe

After E.U. imposes fine over coal mine, Poland PM Mateusz Morawiecki defiant

Published : September 22, 2021 12:55 IST

Poland now faces a half-a-million-euro fine for every day the disputed coal mine remains open. Photo: Slaevk Ruta/ZUMA Wire/imago images

The E.U.'s Court of Justice has ordered Poland to pay a daily fine of €500,000 for keeping a mine open.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki was defiant on September 21 after a top E.U. court demanded his country shut down a mine near the Czech border. "We are not going to turn off Turow, it would deprive millions of Polish families of electricity," Morawiecki said during a media briefing, according to the Polish Press Agency.

The European Court of Justice slapped Poland with a €500,000 ($586,000) daily fine on September 20 in response to the country's refusal to shut down the Turow open-cast lignite mine. The Czech Republic took the case to court over complaints that the mine is causing cross-border environmental hazards, especially as it concerns air and water quality.

Why did the court issue a daily fine?

In May, the E.U.'s top court told Poland to shut down the mine, though Poland has refused to comply. In June, Prague asked the E.U.'s top court to fine Poland €5 million ($5.9 million) per day for failing to halt production at the mine. Though the daily fine ordered by the court is considerably less, Prague still eyes the verdict as leverage in bilateral negotiations over the matter, which are ongoing. The daily fine will continue to accrue until the mine is shut.

Despite the ruling, Poland said it stands by its decision to keep the mine open. "Suspending work at the Turow mine would threaten the stability of the Polish power system," Polish government spokesperson Piotr Muller said. By contrast, Jakub Kulhanek, the Czech foreign minister, hailed the verdict, tweeting: "The main goal remains the same — access to drinking water on the Czech side must not be jeopardized."

Poland will not close Turow, citing 'energy security'

Poland argues closing the Turow mine would endanger the country's energy security. The mine, which has been operating since 1904, fuels a power station that provides around seven per cent of electricity. Turow also employs 4,000 people.

Germany and the Czech Republic have both complained about an increase in noise and dust brought about by the plant's expansion, though Poland argues both countries have their own lignite mines near their borders with Poland.

Poland still relies on coal for 80 per cent of its power needs and has vowed to shut its last mine by 2049, in line with E.U. targets. "Poland did not leave its citizens without energy and did not close the mines overnight," Marcin Romanowski, Poland's deputy justice minister, wrote on Twitter. "It is judicial robbery and theft in broad daylight. You won't get a cent," he added.

ar/rs (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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