EC warns it will deduct overdue lignite mine fines from EU funding

Last year, the Czech government took Poland to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) over the alleged negative environmental impact of the Turów lignite mine, which lies close to the Czech border in south-west Poland. Aleksander Koźmiński/PAP

The European Commission (EC) has warned the Polish government that it will deduct unpaid fines from EU funding bound for Poland due to its failure to comply with a European court order to close the Turów lignite mine.

The deadline to pay the fines to Brussels passed on Tuesday.

EC spokesperson Balazs Ujvari told a press conference the Commission had informed the Polish government of the situation and that Warsaw had been given 10 days to respond, after which the next step would be to deduct the overdue fines from EU funding.

Last year, the Czech government took Poland to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) over the alleged negative environmental impact of the Turów lignite mine, which lies close to the Czech border in south-west Poland.

In September 2021, the CJEU imposed a daily fine of EUR 500,000 on Poland for failing to suspend operations at the mine, but Poland has refused to close the mine and to pay up.

The EC announced on January 13 that it had sent Warsaw a demand for the fine's payment as it had not received any money. Ujvari said at the time that the money would be deducted from funding if not received.

He said the money had been due since September 20, 2021, the day on which the CJEU had imposed the fine. The first demand for payment concerned the period from September 20 to October 19, 2021, and had been sent on November 10 with a 45-day deadline. A reminder was then sent with a 15-day deadline.

If Poland does not pay the fine, Ujvari said concrete procedures were in place and that the sum mentioned in the first demand for payment would be deducted from funding due from the EU budget.

Polish government spokesperson Piotr Mueller said last week that the government "fundamentally disagreed" with the CJEU's decision to impose the fine as it "exceeded the competences of the EU."

He added that while the EC was free to fine Poland, "the security of Poles in terms of energy is the most important thing for us."

Poland and the Czech Republic have held 19 rounds of talks so far in an attempt to resolve the dispute over the Turów mine, but no agreement has yet been reached. However, Polish Climate Minister Anna Moskwa said on Wednesday that a deal was in sight and that the potential agreement includes the withdrawal of the Turów case from the CJEU.