The amount of penalties for non-compliance with the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) ruling on the temporary suspension of mining at the Turów mine in Poland has already exceeded EUR 45 million (PLN 200 million). Meanwhile, the Polish government keeps assuring that Poland will not pay. Can Poland actually avoid liability? The replies of the European Commission leave no doubt. The amounts due, plus late payment interest, will be deducted from the payments to the Member States that Poland receives on a daily basis. Therefore, all Polish taxpayers will pay for the government's inefficiency in the Turów case.
Information on how the European Commission will deduct payments was provided by the Directorate General for Budget of the European Commission in response to a question asked by Hubert Smoliński, a lawyer from the Polish Frank Bold Foundation.
— The European Commission will deduct the funds due to Poland, together with interest, as soon as the deadline specified in the renewed request for payment expires. We also know that there will be plenty of deductions. Only in November this year, Poland benefited from nearly 40 EU payments with the amount of around EUR 400 million (PLN 2 billion). According to our calculations, we can expect the first serious "hole" in the Polish budget at the end of January 2022. How is the Polish government planning to patch it? This question remains unanswered — says Hubert Smoliński.
In response to parliamentary questions, the European Union Commissioner for the Environment, Virginijus Sinkevičius, on behalf of the European Commission, also explains that “the Commission asked the Polish authorities how they intend to comply with the Court's orders. As Poland did not provide evidence that lignite mining had ceased at the Turów mine, the Commission sent a first request for payment in line with the provisions of the Financial Regulation”.
If Poland does not pay by the deadline set by the end of this year, late payment interest will be charged at 3.5% for each day. As the Commission is in a position to enforce the payments, it "sees no need to consider other measures at this stage".
— The government continues to downplay the penalties that have been imposed on Poland. It lies to taxpayers by claiming that Poland may not pay them. Meanwhile, the financial consequences will affect us all — comments Maria Wittels from the Polish "Development YES—Open-pit Mines NO” Foundation. — Recently, Gazeta Wyborcza (Polish media) presented a visualization of a city modernized thanks to the EU funds that will now go to the penalties imposed by the CJEU. For what we have lost so far through Turów, we could have new kindergartens, roads, bridges, parks, theaters, hospitals, etc. It's worth taking a look at this graphic to realize how much we lose every day due to the government's stubbornness on coal!
— The Turów complex is a real disaster for the PiS government. The planned and already incurred fines, as well as the charges for the production of energy from lignite from Turów make this energy the most expensive in Poland — emphasizes Radosław Gawlik, president of the EKO-UNIA Ecological Association from Poland. — In addition to the above-mentioned more than PLN 200 million (EUR 40 million) penalties imposed by the CJEU, it is also necessary to add possible EUR 50 million for a contract with the Czech Republic and tens of millions of PLN for a water barrier, noise barrier and other activities reducing the impact on neighbors. The end of 2021 is also an inexplicable lack of energy transformation of the Turów complex and missed opportunities to use PLN 1 billion from the EU Just Transition Fund for the Zgorzelec region.
— Turów is not the only one where the Polish government spends taxpayers' money. There is a law which is currently being processed in the parliament that allows for further subsidies to the unprofitable mining sector in the amount of over PLN 28 billion (EUR 6 billion) only until 2031. Climate minister Anna Moskwa should start a real transformation as soon as possible. Maintaining the status quo of coal is irrational and acts to the detriment of the public interest — comments Anna Meres, coordinator of climate campaigns from Greenpeace Poland.
Photo: Julian Nyča, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons