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Poland ordered to pay half a million euros a day over border dispute with Czechs

Warsaw, Poland – Poland has been ordered to pay a daily penalty of €500,000 to the European Commission over its failure to respect a court ruling to halt operations at its Turow lignite mine, the EU’s top court said on Monday.

Poland and the Czech Republic have been locked in a dispute over the Polish open-pit coal mine, located near the border between the two Central European neighbours.

Prague claims operations from the Turow mine and power plant have a negative impact on the Czech communities living just the other side of the border, and that its license was expanded without proper consultation nor assessment of its environmental impact.

After negotiations between the two V4 allies failed to reach an agreement, the Czech government appealed to the European Commission, which backed Prague and said Warsaw had breached EU law.

Earlier this year, the Czech Republic also received the support of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), which issued a temporary order to halt operations at the mine until a final judgment can be issued.

“This ruling is a welcome reprieve for people living on the frontline of the crisis, who have been forced to live with the mine gulping their drinking water and undercutting their houses”, Kathrin Gutmann from the Europe Beyond Coal organization said at the time.

But coal-reliant Poland remained defiant and refused to halt operations at the mine, which accounts for approximately 8% of domestic electricity supplies.

While the Czech Republic had asked for the CJEU to impose a 5-million-euro daily fine against Poland for refusing to comply with the order, EU judges on Monday decided on a much lower daily penalty of €500,000 per day.

“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,” the CJEU declared on Monday.

The first environmental lawsuit between two EU member states, the dispute represents a rare crack in the friendly relations between the two Central European neighbours.

Wojciech Dabrowski, the chief executive of PGE, showed no sign of being willing to comply with the new decision either, describing Monday’s ruling as “bizarre” and insisting he did not expect operations at the Turow mine to halt.