Poland faces fines of EUR 100,000 a day for logging in Białowieża
PR dla Zagranicy
Poland may face fines of EUR 100,000 (PLN 423,000) a day if it fails to comply with a ban on logging in the primaeval Białowieża forest, a European Union top court has said.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Oliver Herold
The European Court of Justice reiterated its July decision that Poland must stop logging immediately, pending its final decision on the European Commission's accusations that cutting down trees in the forest violates birds and habitats protection rules.
The Luxembourg-based court also gave Warsaw 15 days to notify Brussels about how it planned on complying with the decision.
Warsaw claimed that logging was necessary to ensure safety in the UNESCO World Heritage-listed forest in Poland's northeast, which is home to the European bison and a number of bird species.
According to Polish Environment Minister Jan Szyszko, a plague of the spruce bark beetle has compromised trees, which pose a threat to mushroom pickers and others who enter the forest.
Szyszko has also said that European Union allowances for logging in certain parts of the forest, such as near roads, was insufficient in Poland where state forests were open to the public.
But the European court said the immediate ban was necessary because logging could cause significant and irreversible damage to the ancient forest even before Brussels' case against Poland is final.
The court added that logging would be allowed only when other alternatives, such as temporary bans on entering parts of the forest, were not viable.
The court gave Poland 15 days to prove to Brussels that it was complying with the decision.
If the European Commission feels otherwise, it will be able to take the matter back to the court, which can choose to impose fines of at least EUR 100,000 for every day of logging.
The European Commission's concerns over logging in the Polish forest have been voiced amid a larger, ongoing dispute between the bloc and Warsaw over the respect of the rule of law.
The European Parliament recently warned Poland that it could have its right to vote in the Council of the European Union suspended.
As well as urging Poland to stop large-scale logging in the Białowieża forest, the parliament asked Poland to not proceed with new laws unless they fully guaranteed the independence of the courts, to respect the right of freedom of assembly, to condemn what it described as the recent “xenophobic and fascist” November 11 Independence Day march in Warsaw, and to provide free and accessible contraception and the so-called morning-after pill available over the counter. (vb/pk)