Poland ignores EU over logging 

Poland ignores EU over logging 

Poland will continue logging in the ancient forest of Bialowieza despite an order from the EU’s top court to halt the practice, Warsaw’s environment minister has said.

European courts last week ordered Poland to suspend logging operations pending a final judgement on its dispute with Brussels.

Environment minister Jan Szyszko said operations would continue and the government would formally respond to the court this week.

Szyszko claimed the authorities were conducting “an experiment”. After several years, the ministry would compare the condition of both parts of the forest to determine “who is in the right”.

“We thank the commission very much for such a big interest in our forest,” Szyszko said with apparent sarcasm. “But we will not be insulted by those who don’t know about the rules of protection of environment.”

The announcement is the latest challenge by Poland to the legal authority of the EU, which Poland joined in 2004, and could result in financial action. The nationalist PiS government that took power in Poland in 2015 has been criticised repeatedly by the authorities in Brussels.

Polish broadcaster TVN24 showed video of trees being cut down in the Bialowieza forest, a Unesco world heritage site.

Greenpeace’s representative in Poland said: “The felling is continuing, even if it is at a lower intensity.”

A camera operator trying to film felling operations was assaulted by employees of one of the logging contractors.

The EU took Poland to court on July 13, arguing that the felling operations were endangering unique plant and animal life, including Europe’s largest mammal, the European bison (pictured).

Last week Poland was formally warned that its efforts to consolidate power over the judiciary threatened the rule of law.

Warsaw said it had authorised the logging, which began in May 2016, to contain damage caused by a spruce bark beetle infestation and to reduce the chances of large-scale forest fires.

It has been at the centre of a bitter debate since Warsaw tripled the logging limits last year and, in February, repealed protection for areas that include a large number of trees that are more than 100 years old.

Scientists, ecologists and the EU say the logging is a cover for commercial cutting of protected old-growth forest.

The forest, which crosses Poland’s eastern border with Belarus, includes one of the largest surviving sections of the primeval forest that covered the European plain 10,000 years ago.

The United Nations cultural agency, Unesco, has called on Poland to halt the logging operations.

A bison in Bialowieza forest. Picture credit: Wikimedia 

 

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