The European Commission has decided to refer Poland to the Court of Justice of the EU for increased logging in the Białowieża Forest, which is a protected Natura 2000 site.As logging operations have started on a significant scale, the Commission is also requesting the Court for interim measures compelling Poland to suspend the works immediately.
On 25 March 2016, the Polish authorities adopted a decision allowing for a three-fold increase in logging operations in the Białowieża Forest district, as well as for logging in areas so far excluded from any intervention.
These measures - which include the removal of century old trees - pose a major threat to the integrity of this Natura 2000 site. The Natura 2000 site protects species and habitats that are dependent on old-growth forests, including the availability of dead wood. For some of these species, the Białowieża Forest is the most important or the last remaining site in Poland. The available evidence shows that these measures are not compatible with the conservation objectives of the site and exceed those necessary for ensuring the sustainable use of the forest. In addition, the decision was preceded by an inappropriate assessment of the impacts of the measures on the Natura 2000 site.
In April 2017, the Commission issued a reasoned opinion urging Poland to refrain from large scale logging and giving Poland one month to comply. In spite of this, Poland has begun to implement its plan.
According to EU law (article 279), the Court of Justice can prescribe interim measures to require a Member State to hold back from activities causing serious and irreparable damage before a judgement is given. The Commission considers that the increased logging in the Białowieża Forest requires the adoption of interim measures, which are granted by the Court only in exceptionally urgent and serious cases.
The Habitats Directive (Council Directive 92/43/EEC) requires the establishment of the Natura 2000 network which made of Special Areas of Conservation (SACs), and Special Protection Areas for birds (SPAs). Each Member State identifies and proposes sites that are important for the conservation of species and habitats listed in the Habitats Directive occurring naturally in their territory.
The Birds Directive (Directive 2009/147/EC) creates a comprehensive scheme of protection for all wild bird species naturally occurring in the EU.
For More Information:
-On the key decisions in the July 2017 infringements package, see a full MEMO/17/1935.
-On the July infringements package (on letters of formal notices only), see a full MEMO/17/1936.
-On the general infringements procedure, see MEMO/12/12.
On the EU infringements procedure.