The European Union is starting the process to deduct millions of euros from payments to Poland in order to cover fines imposed on Warsaw for ignoring a court injunction to close down a coal mine, according to officials.
The European Court of Justice ruled last year that Poland should close the open-pit brown coal mine in Turow, near the border with the Czech Republic. In its injunction, it ruled in favor of the Czech government, which complained that the open-pit mine drains groundwater from villages on the Czech side of their border, while also causing dust and noise pollution.
The court ordered Poland to pay a daily fine of 500,000 euros ($567,000) as long as it continues to operate the mine.
Poland’s government, however, has refused to shut down the mine, saying it’s crucial for providing jobs and energy to the country. It has argued that the EU court had no authority to impose the fine.
European Commission spokesperson Balazs Ujvari said the deadline expired for Poland’s first payment, and the commission is now beginning its “offsetting procedure.”
The first payment amounts to 15 million euros ($17 million) plus 30,000 euros in interest.
The Polish and Czech governments have been holding talks in search of a solution to the problem but have still failed to reach a settlement.
Poland is expected by the European Commission to close its hard coal mines earlier than in 2049, but plans to defend its stance, Deputy State Assets Minister Piotr Pyzik said.
“The ministry has no such a plan, I would like to univocally dismiss it,” Pyzik said, when asked about plans to shut down mines ahead of the 2049 deadline agreed on with the unions. “However, when it comes to the European Commission… we were told that 2049…from the point of view of the EC is unacceptable.”
The ministry is now focusing on preparing a notification to the European Commission concerning state aid for the mining sector and hopes to convene the commission to the 2049 date.