ECJ tells PiS to stop logging
The Luxembourg-based European Court of Justice (ECJ) has warned Poland that it will face penalties of at least €100,000 per day if it fails to comply with an order to limit logging in one of Europe’s last remaining ancient forests, a Unesco World Heritage site.
The nationalist, socially conservative Law and Justice (PiS) government tripled logging quotas in the forest despite protests by environmental groups and criticism from Brussels that it was violating EU wildlife safeguards.
The European Commission took Poland to court earlier this year to stop Bialowieza forest logging. The European bison (pictured) and other endangered flora and fauna are still found in the untouched forest, which straddles the border between Poland and Belarus, although the Warsaw government claims it is infested with the spruce bark beetle.
Demanding logging is Poland’s Environment Minister Jan Szyszko, a conservative linked to a politically combative branch of the Polish Catholic Church and a keen hunter.
Poland argued that the logging was necessary to cope with the beetle infestation while the EU demanded conservation.
Warsaw said logging was needed to ensure the safety of people who pick mushrooms in the forest, among others, where trees have been weakened beetles.
The ECJ in July imposed a provisional injunction on logging in the forest. Yesterday (Monday) the court ruled that the ban should stand until a final ruling on the case is decided, expected next year. It did, however, say that essential forest management operations should be allowed.
The ECJ also told Warsaw to send the commission a report on all measures that it has adopted in order to comply with the ruling within 15 days.
If the commission decides the Poles have failed to comply with the order, it will be able to request that proceedings be resumed, potentially resulting in penalties of at least €100,000 for each day of non-compliance.
Poland’s environmental ministry was unavailable for comment.
PiS head Jaroslaw Kaczynski will take over as prime minister next month, Newsweek has reported, giving Poland’s most powerful job to its most-influential politician.
Kaczynski is set to replace Beata Szydlo, who is halfway through a four-year term, according to the Polish edition of Newsweek. He served as prime minister in 2006-07 and says he will continue on the path of “pride, independence and strength”, taking on the EU over democratic standards.
Kaczynski, 68, reportedly picked Szydlo partly because of his own negative poll ratings, suggesting he was one of Poland’s least-trusted politicians
He agreed that President Andrzej Duda, a former PiS backbencher, would run foreign policy and attend EU summits, Newsweek reported.
Bialowieza forest’s European bison. Picture credit: IHA