The European Commission said Wednesday that it is moving to withhold millions of euros in funds intended for Poland after leaders there refused to pay legal fines over the Turow coal mine near the Czech border.
The European Court of Justice (ECJ) last year ordered Poland to close the mine, with the Czech government claiming that it drains groundwater from Czech villages and causes pollution.
Poland has refused to shut down the mine, saying it boosts the economy and helps the country meet its energy needs. Warsaw claims the EU does not have the legal authority to order the closure of the mine.
The ECJ has imposed a fine of €500,000 ($567,000) per day as long as Poland operates the mine.
Despite ongoing talks between Warsaw and Prague to resolve the coal mine dispute, the Polish and Czech governments have so far failed to reach an agreement.
How much does Poland receive from the EU?
European Commission spokesperson Balazs Ujvari said Wednesday that Brussels is utilizing an "offsetting procedure" for EU payments to Warsaw after a payment deadline expired on Tuesday.
Warsaw's first payment totals €15 million ($17 million), in addition to €30,000 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. The Polish government will then be given at least 10 working days to respond.
"Following that, the Commission will deduct the amount concerned from the payment identified," Ujvari said.
According to EU figures from 2018, Poland pays the EU €3.98 billion per year and annually receives €16.35 billion from the bloc.
Escalating tensions between Poland, EU
The move by the European Commission is the latest escalation in the ongoing feud between Brussels and Warsaw.
Poland currently faces additional fines of €1 million per day since October after Warsaw refused to follow EU rulings regarding the Polish judicial system.
The ECJ has ordered Poland suspend the disciplinary chamber of the Polish Supreme Court, which it says violates EU judicial standards.
The EU is also refusing to grant Poland pandemic post-recovery funds because of Warsaw's noncompliance with ECJ orders.
wd/sms (AP, dpa)