People, Environment

EU Court Orders Poland to Stop Logging in Protected Forest

The European Union’s top court has ordered Poland to immediately halt large-scale logging in an ancient protected forest, one of many cases that has pitted the nationalist, euroskeptic government in Warsaw against the bloc.

The EU’s executive commission earlier this year sued Poland at the European Court of Justice over logging in the Bialowieza Forest, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Straddling the border between Poland and Belarus, it is one of Europe’s last primeval forests and home to its largest herd of European bison as well as unique birds and insects, Reuters reported.

In an interim decision, ECJ said the logging should stop immediately as it could cause “serious and irreversible damage” to the forest. The main case filed by the commission against Warsaw at the court could take years to conclude.

The commission has said the logging violates the bloc’s wildlife protection laws. Poland’s Environment Ministry, which declined to comment on the ECJ announcement, says it is needed to protect the forest from an invasion of beetles.

Environmentalists say the vast majority of trees felled so far were not affected by the beetles.

They have been holding regular protests to try to halt the logging and UNESCO has also appealed to Poland to stop felling the trees.

“If Polish authorities do not respect the decision, it will be in serious conflict with EU law,” said Agata Szafraniuk, a lawyer at ClientEarth, an environmentalist group.

Poland still has several days to react to the ECJ decision.


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