Logging of Białowieża Forest illegal, confirms Advocate General of EU Court

Białowieża Forest in Poland © WWF / Adam LawnikBrussels, Belgium - 20 February 2018

The Advocate General of the Court of Justice of the European Union has today issued an opinion in which he confirms that it was unlawful to increase logging in the Białowieża Forest. The final judgment of this case is expected in March.

Responding to the opinion, Dariusz Gatkowski, Biodiversity specialist at WWF-Poland, said:

"We welcome the opinion as it is in line with Polish law, international commitments and scientific knowledge. It confirms what WWF has been saying all along, that it was illegal for the Polish government to increase logging in Białowieża and place Europe's best preserved lowland forest under threat. We expect the final judgement in the case to be based on today's opinion."

Together with a coalition of NGOs, WWF today calls on Polish Minister Henryk Kowalczyk to immediately cancel documents surrounding the increase of timber production and to immediately start activities aimed at extending the national park.

Gatkowski added:

"We hope that Minister Kowalczyk will abide by the law and not give in to the pressure of those who under the guise of public security want to cut down trees for commercial purposes in the most valuable, natural fragments of the forest."

Poland's Białowieża Forest is one of Europe's last remaining primeval forests and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Today's opinion follows a July 2017 ECJ decision requiring Poland to suspend logging in the forest, after the March 2016 decision by Poland's then-Minister of the Environment, Jan Szyszko, to allow increased logging.

"Today's opinion should be a wake-up call to governments across the EU who are failing to comply with the EU Nature directives which protect not only Bialowieza but also many other threatened natural places and species. The European Commission must get much tougher towards member states to clearly show that any breach of the directives will have serious consequences," said Sabien Leemans, Senior Biodiversity Policy Officer at the WWF European Policy Office.

ENDS
 
Notes to Editors:

For further information:
Angelika Pullen | WWF European Policy Office | apullen@wwf.eu | +32 473 947 966

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