Poland violates law in lignite mine dispute, EU court aide says

The Turów coal mine. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Poland was chided by an adviser to the European Union’s top court over its refusal to shut down a controversial lignite mine ahead of a reported deal with the Czech government, which sued to close down the facility near its border.

“By extending the development consent for lignite mining in the Turow mine by six years without carrying out an environmental impact assessment, Poland infringed EU law,” Advocate General Priit Pikamaee of the EU Court of Justice said in a non-binding opinion on Thursday. 

The Luxembourg-based court in September slapped Poland with a daily penalty of 500,000 euro ($565,000) for failing to comply with a previous order by EU judges to immediately halt the mining, which the Czech Republic says is draining water reserves from the border region. Poland has said it can’t afford to switch off the Turow mine and the nearby power plant, which can supply up to 7% of the country’s electricity, as it would pose a risk to its energy security.

Polish and Czech government negotiators have reached an agreement in their dispute over Turow, state-owned PAP newswire reported on Thursday without saying where it got the information. The deal would lead to the withdrawal of the court case filed by Prague. Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki will meet his Czech counterpart in Prague on Thursday with a news conference scheduled for 1 p.m.

Poland has so far refused to pay the court-ordered daily fine for failing to close the mine and ignored three payment requests from the commission, which is now preparing to withhold budget payments as a result.

Poland has separately racked up at least 69 million euros in daily fines in a separate pending court decision to pay a record 1 million euros for each day it continues to ignore an order to halt a controversial chamber to discipline judges. 

The mounting fines come as Poland and Hungary pursue EU court challenges against a so-called conditionality mechanism established in January that allows the EU to withhold budget distributions to member states if they don’t follow the rule of law.

The case is: C-121/21, Czech Republic v Republic of Poland.

(By Stephanie Bodoni)


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