The European Commission has started infringement proceedings against the Polish Government over illegal plans to log in Białowieża Forest. The Polish Environment Ministry has one month to respond.
The case could end up before the European Court of Justice, with hefty fines for Poland.
ClientEarth Lawyer Agata Szafraniuk said: “Starting legal proceedings shows the Commission agrees that the Polish Government violated the law when it decided to increase logging in Białowieża. This contradicts Polish Government claims that the Commission supports felling.”
The infringement case is based on a possible breach of the Birds and Habitats Directive, EU environmental laws that protect the most valuable natural places in Europe.
ClientEarth and six other campaign groups complained to the Commission about the breach, after their concerns were ignored by the Polish Government. The majority of Polish scientists agree that cutting more trees will not protect Białowieża, which is Europe’s last surviving primeval forest and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Commission opens infringement after visiting Białowieża Forest
The Commission launched legal proceedings after analysing documents from the Polish Ministry of Environment and environmental campaigners. Representatives also visited Białowieża Forest last Friday, where they met with the ministry, foresters and campaigners. The visit shows how seriously the Commission takes the issue, as this kind of mission is unusual.
The pre-litigation stage began today, when the Commission called on the Polish Ministry of Environment to cancel the illegal logging. If it does not, the Commission will launch a full legal case, asking judges at the EU Court of Justice to rule on the infringement.