deer bialowieza forest

Polish government has 24 hours to cancel illegal logging or risk EU Court

The Polish government has 24 hours to justify its illegal logging in Białowieża Forest to the European Commission, or risk facing judges from the EU Court.

On April 27, the European Commission gave the Polish government a final warning over a threefold increase of logging in Europe’s last primeval forest. The increase breaches EU nature laws and poses a huge risk to the UNESCO World Heritage site.

If the Polish government does not provide a satisfactory reply within the one-month deadline – which ends tomorrow – it could be hauled before judges from the Court of Justice of the European Union. This is widely expected, because of its lack of cooperation since the Commission launched legal proceedings less than a year ago.

ClientEarth lawyer Agata Szafraniuk said: “A case before the EU Court of Justice would be hugely embarrassing for the Polish government. It would very likely end in significant fines, and taxpayers would ultimately have to pay the bill. In the meantime, Białowieża’s delicate ecosystem, home to hundreds of protected animals and plants, could be destroyed by illegal logging at any moment.

“The Commission must continue to hold the Polish government to account for flouting EU nature laws. This is the only way to defend Białowieża, and to show that environmental protection around Europe cannot be ignored on a whim.”

Legal proceedings over the illegal logging plan were launched in June 2016, when the Commission issued a letter of formal notice against the Polish government following a complaint from ClientEarth and six other campaign groups. It has fast-tracked the process at every stage, showing the severity of the legal breach and imminent threat to Europe’s oldest forest.

UNESCO has also called on the Polish government to cancel its logging plan, saying Białowieża should be allowed to grow with minimal intervention.

If the Polish government does not give the Commission a satisfactory reply before the deadline tomorrow, the Commission is expected to refer the case to the Court of Justice of the EU. This decision could come very soon, because the case grounds are already prepared and the legal proceedings have so far been expedited at every stage.

Join the legal fight to protect Białowieża Forest, and we’ll let you know what you can do to help. This is your chance to stand up to illegal logging and make sure people and the planet are put first.

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Adam J. Lawnik