The European Court of Justice (ECJ) [official website] ruled [press release, PDF; judgment, in Polish] Tuesday that Poland broke EU law by logging in the Białowieża Forest [background], one of Europe’s last ancient forest, according to the UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization World Heritage Convention (UNESCO) [advocacy website].
Poland began logging in the Białowieża Forest in 2016. Since then, Polish authorities have drastically increased logging and woodland management activities in Bialowieska Forest, home to some of Europe’s oldest trees and several endangered species. Last year the European Commission [official website] filed suit against Poland arguing that it was destroying a forest containing unique plant and wildlife.
The court found that Poland violated the EU’s Habitat Directive [text, PDF], which requires members of the EU to take appropriate action to conserve areas deemed special. Under the court’s ruling, Poland must immediately stop logging in the forest or be subject to financial penalties.
Poland government had argued that cutting down trees was a necessary measure to ensure hikers safety and protect trees from bark beetle infestation. However, environmental activists asserted that the large-scale logging taking place was actually destroy near-extinct animal and plant habitats, which is in stark violation of the Directive. The court also found that Poland’s argument that their logging was to ensure public safety could not be warranted because the definition of “public safety” was not precisely defined.
The ruling also confirms the Advocate General Yves Bot’s preliminary opinion [JURIST report] that Poland’s logging efforts violated EU law.
Poland government stated [press release] that it will respect the verdict handed down and stop logging the forest; however it plans to propose a compromise.