The European Commission has taken the final step before litigation in the EU Court over illegal logging in Bialowieza Forest. The Polish government now has one month to reverse plans for a threefold increase of logging in the UNESCO heritage site, or face judges from the Court of Justice of the European Union.
The European Commission today issued its reasoned opinion, giving detailed objections that will be used if the case goes to the EU Court. The news comes as the Polish government is preparing to ramp up logging in the protected forest.
ClientEarth lawyer Agata Szafraniuk said: “This is the last and final warning for Poland’s Environment Minister Jan Szyszko – he has one month to reverse the decision to illegally increase logging in Europe’s last primeval forest. The Commission will not wait any longer.
“The Polish government is not only violating the law, it is attacking its own land and the people who want to protect it. If the case goes to the EU Court of Justice, it will be hugely embarrassing for the Polish government. There is also a high chance of being handed significant fines, with taxpayers footing the bill.”
Bialowieza legal warning: Infringement proceedings fast-tracked
As with the first stage of the legal proceedings, the Commission gave the Polish government just one month – instead of the normal two – to respond. It has fast-tracked every stage of the infringement proceeding, showing the severity of the law breach and the high risk to Bialowieza Forest.
Last year, ClientEarth and six other campaign organisations complained to the European Commission about illegal plans to massively increase logging in the forest, after appeals to the Polish government were ignored. The Commission started infringement proceedings, and UNESCO advisors have also called on the Polish government to halt plans for a three-fold increase in logging.