Ghosted: Poland Avoids Paying EU Fines by Leaving Email from EU Court Unread

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Poland is avoiding paying exorbitant European Union fines of €1 million (£850,000/$1.2 million) per day by leaving e-mail from the EU court unread, according to reports.

The penalty comes on top of a separate €500,000 euro a day fine for failing to shut down a coal mine as ordered by EU judges, and was issued because the Polish government, led by the national conservative Law and Justice Party (PiS), has scrapped the Disciplinary Chamber of the Polish Supreme Court, which according to the EU violates rule of law principles — although similar bodies operate elsewhere in the bloc, such as France, without issue.

Despite this ruling, reports in the Polish media suggest that “None of the Polish authorities have so far opened the e-mail sent by the [Court of Justice of the European Union] on this matter in the e-Curia system, which is used for communication between the Member-States and the European Commission,” with the EU indicating that they believe “the Polish authorities are deliberately not picking up the parcel” in order to avoid paying the fines.

This tactic of “ghosting” the EU court could hold off the fines for up to a week — unless it hires a courier in an effort to try and serve Poland its proverbial court papers — at which point they will automatically be considered to have been delivered. Nevertheless, the snub will prove embarrassing for the bloc, which has been keen to assert its authority in Poland since it rejected EU migrant quotas and, more recently, produced a Constitutional Tribunal ruling that EU law does not have primacy over the Polish constitution.

The Polish government, which has accused the EU of trying to “put a gun to our head” on the courts issue, maintains that the European Union has no authority to instruct its member-states how to organise their judiciary; a position reiterated by spokesman Piotr Müller in a statement shared on social media on Wednesday.

“The European Union is a community of sovereign states governed by clear rules. They show a clear division of competences between the EU and the member-states. The issue of regulating the organization of the judiciary is the exclusive competence of the member-states,” Müller insisted.

“The way of punishments and blackmail towards our country is not the right way. This is not a model in which the European Union should function,” he added.

The Polish government has indicated that it intends to resist EU efforts to bring it to heel, with Deputy Minister of Justice Michał Woś suggesting that “If the European Union wants and tries to blackmail us financially, we will deduct the money that we would be losing from what we should contribute in the form of contributions [to the EU budget].”

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