EU court: Czechs want Poland fined for ignoring mine ban

WARSAW, Poland — The European Union’s top court said Tuesday that the Czech Republic is pressing for Poland to be fined 5 million euros ($6 million) for every day it ignores the court’s order last month to immediately shut a lignite mine near the two countries’ border.

The announcement by the European Court of Justice came as Poland is in talks with the Czech government to settle the years-long spat over the Turów mine out of court. A round of talks is expected Thursday in Prague and the request for the stiff fine will complicate the agenda.

Poland’s leaders have been saying that the talks are going in the right direction.

The court said on Twitter that the Czechs have asked it to impose a daily €5 million penalty on Poland “for not having immediately ceased” lignite mining activities in the Turów mine.

Prague says the operation of the open-cast mine in the south-western tip of Poland, near the Czech and German borders, is draining water from Czech villages in the area and has sued Poland to the EU court.

On May 21, the court issued a temporary injunction telling Poland to close Turów immediately, pending the full verdict which, however, can take many months.

Poland’s authorities did not cease the mine’s operation, arguing it directly feeds the Turów power plant that produces some 7% of the nation’s energy, used by millions of households and many industries, and that Poland cannot do without it.

On Monday, Czech Environment Minister Richard Brabec said a draft of an agreement had been sent to Warsaw that includes conditions for withdrawing the case from the EU court, but he revealed no details.

Poland also argues it is not being treated fairly because the Czech Republic and Germany operate a number of lignite mines close to Poland’s borders without facing conflicts.

Some 48% of Poland’s energy comes from hard black coal and 17% from softer and more polluting lignite, or brown coal. Another 25% comes from various renewable sources and biofuels, and 10% comes from gas and other sources.