At a conference in Brussels today, the Commission confirmed it has been investigating whether the Polish government’s plans for a three-fold increase of logging in Bialowieza are legal. It believes the Polish environment ministry failed to carry out an appropriate assessment of the impact of more logging on Europe’s oldest forest, which would make its decision illegal under EU law.
The Commission said that if there are no signs that the logging decision will be reversed, it will take further steps towards legal action against the Polish government.
Talking to the BBC, ClientEarth chief executive James Thornton said: “The people of Poland clearly understand the importance of this ancient forest. The Commission must act urgently to save Bialowieza.”
On 17 May 2016, the Polish Minister of the Environment announced that the logging in Białowieża will start in ten days – which is this Friday 27 May. This means irreversible damage to Europe’s oldest forest is imminent. The Polish government is ignoring the voice of 30,000 Polish people who petitioned to protect the forest, and a Commission complaint lodged by ClientEarth and six other NGOs.
ClientEarth and the six NGOs which lodged the complaint today wrote to the Commission to urge it to move quickly to protect this irreplaceable natural habitat, which is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
ClientEarth lawyer and author of the complaint, Agata Szafraniuk, said: “The Commission’s confirmation that it is investigating the illegal decision to triple logging in Bialowieza is a positive end to today’s conference.
The logging, which could start this week, breaks EU law and will decimate this natural wonder of the world. By taking legal action, the Commission can and must prove it is ready to prevent and punish breaches of the law protecting Europe’s most precious habitats.”
The Commission has already said it is ‘concerned’ about Poland’s plan to triple logging, which is illegal under EU nature laws protecting the forest. It must now act fast to save Bialowieza forest, before it is too late.