Poland fined by EU top court for not closing disputed lignite mine

The Turów mine, which lies on the border with Germany and the Czech Republic, has been the subject of a complaint to the EU by the Czech Republic, which claims plans to extend it threaten the environment and, especially, ground water on the Czech side of the border. Maciej Kulczyński/PAP

Poland has been ordered by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) to pay a fine of EUR 500,000 per day for not halting operations at the disputed Turów open-cast lignite mine, in violation of the EU court's earlier ruling.

CJEU Vice-President Rosario de Lapuerta obliged Poland on Monday to pay the daily penalty to the European Commission.

"Such a measure appears necessary in order to strengthen the effectiveness of the interim measures decided upon in the order of 21 May 2021 and to deter that member state from delaying bringing its conduct into line with that order," reads a CJEU communique.

The Turów mine, part of the largest Polish energy company PGE, lies on the border with Germany and the Czech Republic, and has been the subject of a complaint to the EU by the Czech Republic, which claims plans to extend it threaten the environment and, especially, ground water on the Czech side of the border.

PGE CEO Wojciech Dąbrowski said that EU top court's decision on a fine for Poland was "quite bizarre," and added that "we totally disagree with it."

"I believe that both the mine and the power station will continue their operations since they ensure the energy security of this region of Poland," Dąbrowski said on the sidelines of the European Economic Congress in Katowice after he had been informed about the penalty.

He also pointed out that it was Poland which had been brought before the CJEU, not PGE, and that the penalty had been imposed on the government, and not on the company.

In 2020, Climate Minister Michał Kurtyka prolonged the extraction licence for the mine for another six years, until 2026.

On May 21, the CJEU demanded an immediate halt to mining at Turów under interim measures until a verdict is issued.