European Interest

‘Poland’s logging in primeval forest violates EU law’

Wikimedia Commons/Franczesko Genelli/CC BY-SA 3.0
Bison in Białowieża Forest, Poland.

Poland violated European Union law by logging in its primeval Białowieża forest, according to European Court of Justice Advocate General Yves Bot.

Bot said that felling operations were “liable to result in a deterioration of the breeding sites of protected species”.

The opinion is not binding on the EU’s top court but usually reflects the institution’s final ruling, which is to be reached in a few days, Poland’s IAR news agency reported.

Bot backed the European Commission’s charges that cutting down trees in the forest violates birds and habitats protection rules.

Last year, the then environment minister, Jan Szyszko, authorised logging at the site, claiming that it was necessary to ensure safety in the Unesco World Heritage-listed forest in Poland’s northeast, which is home to the European bison and a number of bird species.

In November, heavy equipment was withdrawn from the old-growth forest and logging operations came to a halt, prompting the European Commission to refrain from motioning for fines for Poland.

Even if the European Court of Justice issues a ruling in line with the advocate general’s opinion, the case against Poland may still be dropped provided that logging operations are not continued in the forest, the IAR news agency reported.

Poland’s new environment minister, Henryk Kowalczyk, said on February 15 that logging in Białowieża would not be resumed.

Meanwhile, the European Court of Justice issued a press release announcing that increased logging in Poland’s protected Białowieża forest breaches EU law.

Commenting on the announcement, the co-chairs of the European Green Party Reinhard Bütikofer and Monica Frassoni said: “We applaud this stance… The Białowieża forest is home to Europe’s largest herd of European bison as well as unique birds and insects. Let’s show the next generation that we are prepared to fight to preserve the few spots of great natural beauty and diversity we have left.”

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