On Monday, Poland’s Environmental Minister Jan Szysko said that the country will continue logging the primeval Bialowieza forest despite a ruling by the European Union’s top court to stop immediately. Brussels had recently requested that the court issue the immediate ban, arguing that irreparable damage could be caused in the forest should Poland continue with their established plans.
“The Order of the Court was issued on the basis of Article 39 of the Statute of the Court of Justice of the EU which is a Protocol agreed and ratified by all Member States, including Poland. All Member States are obliged to comply with interim measures by the Court,” European Commission spokeswoman Mina Andreeva said.
Last week, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ordered Poland to stop their large scale logging in the ancient forest; creating a further divide between the nationalist, eurosceptic government in Warsaw against the EU bloc.
The Bialowieza forest, which extends across the border between Poland and Belarus, has been established as a UNESCO World Heritage site. The forest is the home for more than 800 European bison, the largest animal native to Europe.
A few months ago Szyszko said that, ”the Bialowieza forest was granted UNESCO natural heritage status illegally and without consulting the local community.”
On Monday, Minister Szyszko said Poland was “acting in line with the EU laws”; arguing that the action is needed in order to stop the biggest beetle outbreak they’ve seen in decades.
“The necessity to undertake these activities is due to very serious losses in habitats and species in the area of the Białowieża Forest, covered by the Natura 2000 area, which we have repeatedly informed the European Commission,” the Ministry of the Environment said in a statement.
However, ecologists have said the Environmental Ministry’s rationale is a pretext in order to increase timber production for profit. Authorities are said to have been logging not just infected trees, but also healthy ones; with young trees planned to be planted in their place.
Last year, the Polish Environment Minister approved the plan to harvest more than 180,000 cubic meters of wood from the area in the course of a decade. A 400 percent increase when compared to previous plans.
The logging triggered protest by environmentalist, with hundreds having marched through Warsaw in June to protest the logging in Europe’s last primeval forest.
Environmental groups have been lobbying for the entire forest to be declared a national park in an attempt to ensure its protection; out of fear the forest is being transformed into what essentially will become a tree plantation. Currently only the forest’s center on the Polish side is protected as a national park.
The court ruling has been deemed temporary measure until EU judges can make a final determination on the legality of the logging plans. The EU court will make their final decision after Poland’s arguments is taken into consideration. The environment ministry in Warsaw is said to have until August 4th to make their case.
So far the European Commission has deemed Poland’s explanations as insufficient and has asked the court to determine whether Poland is violating EU directives on habitats and birds.
Minister Szyszko has said that he is not worried about potential fines from the EU for not complying with the ruling; estimating that a halt to the protective measures could cost 2 billion zlotys ($552.03 million) in damage to nature.
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