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ClientEarth Communications

11th September 2017

Wildlife & habitats
Communities & forests
Forests & trade
Defending habitats
Nature Directives
Protected Areas
Illegal Logging

Commission calls for fines as European Court of Justice hears case over illegal logging in Bialowieza Forest

The Commission has today called on the EU’s most senior judges to impose fines on the Polish side for illegal logging in Bialowieza Forest. The news came as the European Court of Justice was deliberating whether an emergency ban on logging in Białowieża Forest should be upheld, with the verdict expected in the next few days.

The EU Court issued an emergency ban on logging in Białowieża Forest on 27 July 2017, saying all chainsaws and harvesters must be stopped immediately.

The Polish Environment Minister was the first in the history of the European Union to not only ignore the interim measures imposed by the EU’s highest Court, but to declare his intention openly, immediately after the ban was ordered.

ClientEarth lawyer Agata Szafraniuk said: “Minister Szyszko openly ignored this interim measure. This unprecedented flouting of a direct order has never happened before in the history of the EU.

“We hope, for the sake of the forest, that the Court will uphold the emergency logging ban and do everything to make Minister Szyszko obey the law, which is here to protect Bialowieza’s unique nature. Ten years ago, when Mr Szyszko was first Polish Environment Minister and was served another emergency interim measure to protect nature, he changed his attitude and complied. He must do the same now.”

EU judges issued the emergency ban due to intense, illegal logging taking place right now in Białowieża Forest. The timber harvesting, which the Polish public and vast majority of scientists have objected to, threatens this unique forest and breaches EU nature laws.

The Commission now has four days to make a formal request to the EU Court for fines to be imposed on the Polish government, which has illegally allowed a three-fold increase in logging in the UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Commission launched the legal case – which has been fast-tracked at every stage - in 2016, after a formal complaint by ClientEarth and seven other campaigning organisations.

ClientEarth's work on this topic is funded in part by Arcadia, a charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin.