Top EU court rules against Poland in Białowieża logging case
PR dla Zagranicy
Logging in Poland's primaeval Białowieża forest is against EU environmental protection laws, the bloc's top court has said, following a two-year row between Warsaw and Brussels.
Białowieża forest. Photo: Tymrym/Wikimedia Commons (WTFPL)
The verdict, which cannot be appealed, will not mean fines for Poland because harvesters were withdrawn from the forest late last year.
But the European Commission will be able to push for sanctions should Poland cut down more trees in the forest in the future.
The row over the UNESCO World Heritage-listed forest in Poland's northeast dates back to mid-2016, when then-Environment Minister Jan Szyszko decided to nearly triple the felling of trees.
The forest is home to century-old trees, the European bison and a number of bird species.
Szyszko said logging across 34,000 hectares, more than half of the Polish forest, was an effort to protect it.
He claimed the forest was affected by an infestation of the spruce bark beetle and that falling trees posed a threat to public safety.
But the European Commission claimed Poland had failed to prove that logging would not adversely affect the integrity of the ancient forest.
After failing to come to an understanding, the European Commission asked the Court of Justice of the European Union to rule on the matter.
The Luxembourg-based court said Poland had failed to explain what “public safety” concerns were being addressed by the logging and that a 2015 management plan did not identify any potential spruce bark beetle threat to the forest.
In response to the court's ruling, Polish Environment Minister Henryk Kowalczyk said: “The Białowieża forest is our heritage. All activities which took place in the forest were governed by our desire to maintain it in its best possible state for future generations.” (vb/pk)