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Poland will have to pay €68 million in EU fines for the continued operation of the Turow coal mine despite court orders to cease operations, according to a ruling by the EU’s lower court on Wednesday, May 29.

In 2021, the European Commission mandated the closure of the controversial Turow open-cast coal mine, located in the German-Czech-Polish border region, due to concerns that it was endangering Czech groundwater levels. When the Polish government failed to comply, the EU executive began imposing fines of €500,000 per day, deducting the amount from EU funds designated for Poland.

Although Warsaw and Prague settled the case in February 2022, Poland attempted to retroactively cancel the fines, which had accumulated to €68.5 million, by seeking annulment in the EU’s lower chamber court. However, the court emphasized in a press release that “the removal of the case from the register does not relieve Poland of the obligation to settle the amount payable.”

Despite the Czechs withdrawing their lawsuit, the court found that fines accrued prior to this could not be annulled to maintain their deterrent effect. The judgement was welcomed in Prague, with Czech news agency CTK quoting Petra Pinter, a lawyer involved in the case, who stated the court “has shown that European law applies equally to all states, and Poland must meet its obligation to pay the sanctions.”

Germany’s Anna Cavazzini, a Green EU lawmaker from the region, also supported the decision, highlighting Turow’s lack of an environmental impact assessment for continued coal mining, which is planned to run until 2024, as she told public broadcaster mdr.

Poland may appeal the judgement, potentially escalating the matter to the EU’s highest court of justice. Online platform reports that Warsaw has already taken that step.