Warsaw, Poland – The Polish government has adopted a draft law that would ban coal imports from Russia in response to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
Declaring it “could not wait for the EU any longer”, Poland banned imports of Russian coal citing national security reasons in the context of the war waged by Russia in neighbouring Ukraine.
Poland imposes ban on Russian coal
“We do realise that [the ban] will be legally questionable,” government spokesman Piotr Müller said, acknowledging that the move would normally fall under the competence of the European Commission. “These doubts are justified but we can’t keep on waiting for the reaction of the EU.”
Even though Poland has one of the largest coal industries in Europe, about 20% of coal consumed in the country is imported from abroad, the vast majority of which comes from Russia, according to Forum Energii.
While Warsaw has successfully reduced its dependence on Russian gas over the past several years, analysts point out that weaning Poland off coal and oil will prove more difficult.
“It’s much easier to ban coal in the final week of March than in October,” Piotr Lewandowski, head of the Institute for Structural Research in Warsaw, explained in reference to the wide-spread use of coal for private and municipal heating across Poland.
“The question now is how do you prepare for the next heating season?”.
EU cautious on Russian energy embargo
Experts note that Poland will either have to buy coal from other countries, which might be more expensive, or push for a faster transition towards other energy sources for heating.
Poland has long been calling for the EU to impose an embargo on energy imports from Russia – including coal, gas, and oil – and cut ties with Russia’s energy sector, central to Moscow’s ability to exert influence and pressure on European countries dependent on Russian imports.
“I once again call on the European Commission to dare to embargo Russian coal,” Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said nearly a month ago.
But several EU member states, including Germany and Hungary, have so far refused to back such a move.
According to the draft law adopted by the Polish government on Tuesday, private entities will also be banned from importing Russian coal and financial penalties can be imposed on those trying to circumvent the legislation.