Primeval forest risks sparking new EU-Poland clash

April 27, 2017
A forest worker cuts down a spruce attacked by woodworm in Bialowieza forest

The EU warned Poland on Thursday it may take legal action to stop logging in a UNESCO World Heritage forest, risking a new clash with Warsaw's right-wing government.

Brussels gave Poland one month rather than the usual two to address its concerns about the ancient Bialowieza forest or face being summoned by the EU's top court.

"One month was considered the right time considering the urgency of the situation," European Commission spokesman Enrico Brivio told reporters.

He said Poland's reply to requests to stop large-scale logging in the forest was "not satisfactory" amid concerns it could cause irreparable biodiversity loss.

The Bialowieza forest includes some of Europe's last primeval woodland and has been granted protected status by the UN heritage organisation.

The threat comes with Brussels and Warsaw already at loggerheads over changes to Poland's constitutional court which the EU has warned could merit sanctions as a "systemic threat" to the rule of law.

Since the populist PiS administration came to power in Warsaw in October 2015, it has come into conflict with Brussels on several fronts.

The EU launched both the logging inquiry—based on a complaint by environmentalists—and the rule of law investigation last year.

If the logging case goes before the European Court of Justice, Poland could face fines.

But if found at fault on the rule of law Poland could face the far more serious prospect of seeing its EU voting rights suspended.

The Bialowieza forest straddles Poland's eastern border with Belarus and is home to unique plant and animal life, including a herd of some 800 European bison, the continent's largest mammal.

The vast woodland includes one of the largest surviving parts of the primeval that covered the European plain ten thousand years ago.

The Polish government began in May last year, saying it was clearing dead trees to prevent damage caused by the spruce bark beetle, and insisting the policy was entirely legal.

Explore further: Poland approves logging Europe's last primeval forest

Related Stories

Poland approves logging Europe's last primeval forest

March 25, 2016

Poland on Friday gave the go ahead for large-scale logging in the Bialowieza forest intended to combat a spruce bark beetle infestation, despite scientists, ecologists and the EU protesting the move in Europe's last primeval ...

Recommended for you

Paris climate targets could be exceeded sooner than expected

September 17, 2018

A new study has for the first time comprehensively accounted for permafrost carbon release when estimating emission budgets for climate targets. The results show that the world might be closer to exceeding the budget for ...

More ships and more clouds mean cooling in the Arctic

September 17, 2018

With sea ice in the Arctic melting at an alarming rate, opportunities for trans-Arctic shipping are opening up, and by mid-century ships will be able to sail right over the North Pole—something not previously possible for ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.