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POLAND: Logging case goes to the ECJ

Yesterday, the European Commission petitioned before the European Court of Justice that Poland face financial penalties for not adhering to a logging ban in the primeval Białowieża forest. In 2016, the ruling PiS party approved the scheme of increasing logging in the forest, arguing that it is necessary to stop a bark beetle infestations. Last month, the ECJ called these measures disproportionate and demanded that all logging works should stop (outlined in the 07.08 CEC Daily). Representatives of the Commission stated that satellite pictures show that Polish authorities violated the court order in over a hundred spots by continuing logging and transporting timber. The ruling party’s Environment Minister Jan Szyszko said that the order was complied with and all further actions were aimed at “ensuring public safety”. He argued that the EU should emulate Poland’s approach to forestry and that the Commission’s reasoning is academically lacking.

Yesterday’s hearing in Brussels related only to the injunction, the broader issues of infringement will take more time to litigate. As of today, the Commission has four days to make its case against Poland in front of the ECJ. Most experts agree that Poland will not admit to wrongdoing, and the Court will issue penalties. In terms of domestic politics, frequent clashes have occurred in the forest between organisations such as Greenpeace and pro-government groups. Certain top PiS officials have said that they would “back down” on the issue of Białowieża, such as Deputy PM Piotr Gliński. Internal pressures on Szyszko may be growing but he still enjoys quite a strong support within the party.