EU court advisor: Poland broke the law over Białowieża logging

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According to Yves Bot, the general advocate at the European Court of Justice, Poland broke international law by drastically increasing logging in the primeval forest in Białowieża. “Those decisions are necessarily liable to result in a deterioration of the breeding sites of the protected species,” Bot said in his opinion, and proposed that “the court should rule that Poland has failed to fulfill its obligations.”

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) will make a final ruling in the coming months and, it is not obliged to follow the adviser’s recommendation, it usually does.

Poland which earlier said that it had to cut down trees infested by the bark beetles to protect the ecosystem and tourists, changed its tune and said it will comply with the ECJ ruling. “We will analyze the advocate general’s opinion closely but what I can say now is that Poland will respect the definitive judgment of the court on the Bialowieża forest,” recently appointed Environment Minister Henryk Kowalczyk said.

Starting in 2016, Poland tripled the amount of logging which brought PLN millions in profits to the state-owned company managing Polish forests. Last year, the European Commission, the European Union’s executive body, sued in the Court of Justice to block that increase, and the court ordered Poland to halt the large-scale felling of trees until the case was resolved. For breaking that order, Warsaw would be fined €100,000 for every day of continued logging. Earlier this month, the European Commission has accepted Poland’s explanations regarding stopping the logging in the Białowieża forest and will not apply to the EU Court of Justice to fine Warsaw

The Białowieża forest, which covers about 1,500 square kilometers of north-eastern Poland and Belarus, is a UNESCO World Heritage site and a part of it forms a national park. It’s one of the few remaining parts of the primeval forest that covered most of Europe for thousands of years.

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