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Press release: 04 December 2020
The European Commission has decided to refer Poland to the EU’s top court over its continued failure to meet its legal obligations to safeguard protected forests and wildlife.
Poland will also face the Court of Justice of the European Union for preventing the public from having a say in how forests are managed.
Reacting to the announcement, ClientEarth lawyer Agata Szafraniuk said: “Barriers to accessing justice under current Polish rules mean that the way our forests are managed cannot be challenged in court, even if the processes breach the law. This makes it impossible for the public to hold present Polish authorities to account.
“Poland’s unchecked forest management has gone on for several years and this is why, together with our partners, we demanded the Commission to take action in 2017. The Commission’s decision shows that our fight for access to justice has not been in vain. It’s now up to the EU’s highest court to decide whether this systemic problem is directly endangering Poland’s forests.”
Polish law currently exempts forest management from respecting species protection as normally required by EU law. This means protected habitats and species can be exposed to potentially harmful activities without a proper assessment of the impact being carried out beforehand.
In 2018, the European Commission opened infringement proceedings against Poland’s failure to ensure that adequate safeguards are in place for protected forests, as required under EU nature legislation. The Commission issued a letter of formal notice, giving Poland two months to respond.
The following year, the Commission sent a reasoned opinion to Poland, urging it to comply with nature protection rules. Failure to act within two months would lead to the case being referred to the Court of Justice of the European Union.
ClientEarth is a charity that uses the power of the law to protect people and the planet. We are international lawyers finding practical solutions for the world’s biggest environmental challenges. We are fighting climate change, protecting oceans and wildlife, making forest governance stronger, greening energy, making business more responsible and pushing for government transparency. We believe the law is a tool for positive change. From our offices in London, Brussels, Warsaw, Berlin and Beijing, we work on laws throughout their lifetime, from the earliest stages to implementation. And when those laws are broken, we go to court to enforce them.