22.08.2017 change 22.08.2017

The European Court of Justice will hold a hearing on the Białowieża Forest on 11 September

Photo: PAP © 2016 / Artur Reszko Photo: PAP © 2016 / Artur Reszko

The first hearing of the European Court of Justice on halting the logging in the Białowieża Forest was scheduled for 11 September, EC spokesperson Ricardo Cardoso told PAP. The EC considers the matter urgent and has previously asked the Court to make it a priority.

According to Cardoso, given the urgency of the case, the Commission has asked the Court to treat the matter as a priority. Cardoso revealed that an ECJ hearing on the interim measures (ban on logging in the forest - PAP) was scheduled for September 11.

On 8th August, Polish Minister of the Environment Jan Szyszko declared on TVP Info: "Poland wants to clarify all the issues as soon as possible and for that reason we are demanding that a quick vision and proceedings be made before the European Court of Justice whether Poland is right or not" - said Szyszko. He added that in his opinion "Poland is right".

Compliance with the rulings of the European Court of Justice is an integral part of the European law on which the Union is founded. Therefore, the Commission has also reminded that if it were confirmed that the logging activities were being carried out and the Court\'s decisions were not being complied with, that issue would also be taken into account in the ongoing dialogue with Poland on the rule of law" - an EC source told PAP at the time.

The European Commission has also sent a letter to the European Court of Justice, in which it requested that the matter of logging in the Białowieża Primeval Forest be expedited as regards both the interim ban on logging and the final ruling.

The ECJ decided in late July to immediately order to halt logging in the Białowieża Primeval Forest in protected areas. This is the interim measure requested by the EC. In response to the ECJ, the Polish Ministry of the Environment wrote in the beginning of August that halting logging in the Białowieża Forest, as the European Commission demands, would result in environmental damages estimated at 3.2 billion zlotys.

According to the information obtained by PAP, the Ministry of the Environment emphasised in its letter that its actions were in compliance with the provisions of the Birds and Habitats Directives, and even necessary for the protection of nature.

The EC is of the opposite view and has initiated the procedure for infringement of EU law in Poland, claiming that these regulations are not complied with. Both directives are the basis of the European Natura 2000 program.

The Polish Ministry of the Environment argues that the EC\'s motion for an interim measure by the Court, i.e. an order to immediately halt logging, does not meet the appropriate conditions to apply it. Jan Szyszko\'s ministry also argues that it can not be said that the Court\'s rationale is the urgency of the matter, as in the early stages the EC was not in a hurry to take measures to put an end to the possible infringement.

The first information about Brussels\'s contacts with Warsaw concerning the forest appeared in March 2016. A few weeks later it was stated that a preliminary procedure was conducted in this case, which was later transformed into an EU law infringement procedure.

The Polish Ministry of the Environment claims that that the EC has not sufficiently demonstrated the likelihood of serious and irreversible damage as a result of intervention in protected areas of the forest. In a letter to the ECJ, it was also pointed out that the logging ban was not a proportional measure and would not minimize the losses of each party. The ministry argues that it is the implementation of the interim measure requested by the EC that will cause the destruction of natural habitats, which could cause irreparable damage.

From Brussels Łukasz Osiński (PAP)

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