Saturday

17th Apr 2021

Poland wrong to log in ancient forest, says EU lawyer

  • Storks in the Bialowieza forest. The Polish government justified its increased logging in the primeval forest by arguing there was a unprecedented spread of the spruce bark beetle (Photo: lehorhe)

Poland has neglected its European obligations by logging in the primeval forest of Bialowieza, according to one of the EU's most senior legal advisers.

Advocate general Yves Bot of the Court of Justice of the EU said on Tuesday (20 February) that Poland "has failed to fulfil its obligations" under two nature-related EU directives – the Habitats directive and the Birds directive.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

Bot's opinion released on Tuesday is non-binding, but the court generally accepts the opinion of an advocate general.

The case involves Poland's decision to increase cutting of ancient trees in Bialowieza to combat the spread of the spruce bark beetle.

In 2016 the Polish environment minister authorised an increase in wood harvesting in the forest. This was followed by a 2017 decision by the Polish forestry office to fell trees colonised by the spruce bark beetle.

The European Commission subsequently began a legal procedure aimed at reversing the Polish decision, which is now before the Luxembourg-based court.

The advocate general said, according to a press statement, that Poland had not carried out necessary measures to protect the Bialowieza site, which is part of the EU's Natura 2000 network of protected areas.

He said that the logging as a means to fight the beetle was not substantiated by sufficient scientific evidence.

The measures "cannot be justified by an unprecedented spread of the spruce bark beetle, in view of the divergence of scientific opinion on whether they are appropriate", the statement said.

Poland also failed to carry out required assessments before starting to increase the logging, the advocate general said.

The environmental lobby group ClientEarth said in a statement on Tuesday that the legal opinion was not surprising, and that it confirmed its stance.

It noted that the minister responsible for the decision, Jan Szyszko, has since been dismissed.

"We hope that minister [Henryk] Kowalczyk, who took over from Jan Szyszko a month ago, will put an end to the destructive policy of his predecessor and grant the whole of Bialowieza Forest national park status," said ClientEarth.

Before leaving, Szyszko had already ordered an end to the increased logging last November, when the court of justice told Poland to suspend it.

Later on Tuesday, the Polish environment ministry issued a statement, saying that Poland "will adhere to the final judgement of the court regarding the Bialowieza Forest".

"The Bialowieza Forest is an exceptionally valuable area for Poland, and all activities to date have been undertaken with its preservation in the best possible condition for present and future generations in mind," Kowalczyk said in the statement.

This article was updated 20 February, 14:16, to include the statement by the Polish environment ministry

Opinion

Europe's last wild rivers under threat at Balkans summit

The EU is prioritising motorways and gas pipelines across the potential accession Western Balkan countries, plus hydropower energy projects which threaten one of the world's freshwater biodiversity hotspots.

Opinion

Elephants are a 'big thing' too, Mr Juncker!

With parliament and member states both demanding action, a rare alliance has formed. If ever there was a popular, immediately effective and easy piece of regulation, it is this. So who at the Berlaymont is blocking a legal proposal?

News in Brief

  1. EU postpones decision on labelling gas 'sustainable'
  2. MEPs call for mass surveillance ban in EU public spaces
  3. Greek and Turkish ministers trade jibes in Ankara
  4. Biden repeats opposition to Russia-Germany pipeline
  5. Navalny in danger, letter warns EU foreign ministers
  6. Lithuania keen to use Denmark's AstraZeneca vaccines
  7. Gas plants largest source of power-sector emissions
  8. Study: Higher risk of blood clots from Covid than vaccines

EU faces long wait for full vaccine supplies

The EU is still several months away from having enough vaccines to inoculate its 450 million people, with Pfizer and BioNTech, its principle suppliers, aiming for September for delivery targets.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersDigitalisation can help us pick up the green pace
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID19 is a wake-up call in the fight against antibiotic resistance
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region can and should play a leading role in Europe’s digital development
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council to host EU webinars on energy, digitalisation and antibiotic resistance
  5. UNESDAEU Code of Conduct can showcase PPPs delivering healthier more sustainable society
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen benefit in the digitalised labour market

Latest News

  1. US rejects Slovenia-linked plan to break up Bosnia
  2. Ukraine urges Borrell to visit Russia front line
  3. Could US sanctions hit Russia vaccine sales to EU?
  4. Polish court pushes out critical ombudsman
  5. Political crises in Romania and Bulgaria amid third wave
  6. Von der Leyen's summer plans undisclosed, after Ukraine snub
  7. Over a million EU citizens back farm-animal cage ban
  8. Three options for West on Putin's Ukraine build-up

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us