WARSAW, Poland (AP) — 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, an official said Wednesday.
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 Wednesday at a news briefing in Brussels that the deadline expired Tuesday for Poland’s first payment, and that the Commission is now beginning its “offsetting procedure.”
The first payment amounts to 15 million euros ($17 million) plus 30,000 euros in interest.
“What the Commission needs to do now is to identify a suitable or appropriate payment against which the compensation can be made,” Ujvari said.
Once it does that, the Commission will inform Polish authorities and give them at least 10 working days to comment.
“And following that, the Commission will deduct the amount concerned from the payment identified,” he added.
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.
Last month a new Polish ambassador to Prague was recalled after he criticized his own country's approach to the dispute, alleging there had been arrogance and a “lack of empathy” on the Polish side.
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