As for the Turów mine, this is the first time that a Member State has been fined for failing to comply with the interim measures. If we do not pay this penalty, another precedent will occur – emphasized in an interview with TVN24 Biznes professor Justyna Łacny from the Faculty of Administration and Social Sciences of the Warsaw University of Technology.
The Court of Justice of the European Union announced on Monday that due to the non-cessation of lignite mining in the Turów mine, Poland was obliged to pay to the European Commission a fine of EUR 500,000 per day, i.e. the equivalent of PLN 2.3 million. The Court explained that “such a measure must be considered necessary to strengthen the effectiveness of the interim measure ordered by the order of 21 May 2021”.
Turów Mine – the first such punishment
– This is a precedent case, for the first time we are dealing with a situation in which a financial penalty was imposed on a Member State for failure to comply with an order on interim measures – emphasizes Łacny.
The expert explains that “such a decision may be issued by the CJEU before the final settlement of the case in a judgment in specific cases”. – When the passage of time could cause irreparable damage. This was the case, for example, in the case of logging the Białowieża Primeval Forest, when the issuing of the CJEU’s decision temporarily suspended the felling of trees until the case is finally resolved in the judgment – he explains.
Why did the CJEU impose interim measures and then a penalty?
In her opinion, it is similar in the case of Turów, because “the proceedings are pending, which have not yet been completed, and in which there is a high probability of irretrievable damage to the environment”.
– That is why the CJEU issued an order on interim measures ordering the suspension of excavation works. As this decision was not implemented by Poland, work is still underway in this open pit, the CJEU imposed a fine on Poland in the amount of EUR 500,000 a day, assuming that financial pressure may induce the Polish side to stop work, he concludes.
He also notes that such a situation has not yet had a precedent, “because the CJEU has never yet imposed financial penalties on a Member State for failure to implement an order ordering interim measures”.
– Obviously, this decision does not end the case, as it has not been settled yet, we have to wait for that. For the time being, the CJEU is demanding that Poland only temporarily suspend work in Turów, until the case is finally resolved, says Łacny.
Turów mine and the CJEU penalty – payment issue
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki saidthat the Polish government will not turn off the Turów complex, and the decision to impose a penalty is not adequate and proportionate. During the press conference at which the government announced an amendment to the budget for 2021, the head of government was asked whether he allows the deduction of this fine from the Polish contribution. – Editor, how to put it, kindly and delicately. We have just shown 80 billion more revenues in the budget, replied the head of government. Asked whether this meant that our country could afford to pay the penalty, the prime minister did not reply.
– As for the payment of the imposed penalties, Poland should normally pay them to the EU budget – says Łacny.
On Tuesday European Commission spokesman Eric Mamer at a conference in Brussels indicatedthat the European Commission will ask Poland to pay the fines. – Poland will have to pay the funds. I am sure that if they do not pay, there are opportunities for the European Commission to take action, said Mamer.
Penalty of the CJEU – what can the European Commission do?
– We are not a net payer, but a net beneficiary. This means that we receive more from the European Union budget than we pay into it. If we do not pay this penalty, another precedent will be created, because Member States pay penalties – emphasizes Łacny.
Then he explains: – In the case of Member States such as Poland – which are net beneficiaries – the European Commission has a fairly simple tool to apply: it can compensate, that is, simply deduct this amount from us from the payments it gives us under EU funds.
Kopania Turów – dispute and negotiations with the Czechs
In February this year. the Czech authorities referred the case related to the Turów mine in Lower Silesia to the CJEU. In their opinion, the expansion of the mine threatens, inter alia, access to water in the Liberec region. In May, an EU court, as a precautionary measure, ordered the mine’s mining operations to be stopped immediately pending a ruling. Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki described the decision of the CJEU as unprecedented and contrary to the basic principles of the functioning of the EU. At the same time, the Polish government started negotiations with the Czech side.
In mid-June, the Czech government sent Poland the first version of the contract for the Turów mine. The Czech Minister of the Environment, Richard Brabec, announced the sending of the project. As he said, the document contains conditions that the Czechs demand of meeting before and after the withdrawal of the claim from the CJEU. However, the details of the project sent to Warsaw have not been disclosed.
Direct talks between the Polish and Czech delegations began on June 17. The Polish-Czech negotiations regarding the lignite mine in Turów are to lead to an intergovernmental agreement that will define the conditions under which the Czech Republic will withdraw its complaint from the Court of Justice of the European Union.
Three months of talks did not bring the expected result in the form of withdrawing the complaint. On Monday, the CJEU decided to impose a fine for failure to comply with the interim measure ordered on May 21.
The Turów mine and power plant are owned by PGE Górnictwo i Energetyka Konwencjonalna, part of PGE Polska Grupa Energetyczna.
Main photo source: PAP / Aleksander Koźmiński