ECJ bans logging in ancient forest in Poland
Poland is banned from logging in the ancient Białowieża Forest, the European Court of Justice has ruled, upholding a complaint filed by the EU. The court concluded that the country had broken EU environmental laws with its large-scale logging, which it argued was necessary to protect trees from an outbreak of bark beetle. Warsaw has said it will respect the ruling. Commentators find it noteworthy that this time a major confrontation appears to have been avoided.
Decisive action leads to success
The Süddeutsche Zeitung hopes that the decision will have a positive impact in various respects:
“With this ruling the judges could not only save a unique ancient forest that lies on the border with Ukraine and is almost twice as big as Berlin, they could also help to improve the image of the European Union. The EU's mechanisms are often and not without reason perceived as slow and inefficient. In the case of the ancient Białowieża Forest the EU has now shown that it can do better. ... Warsaw ignored a preliminary ruling by the ECJ. When the court then swiftly imposed a penalty of 100,000 euros per day the government decided to comply - perhaps this could be a model for other disputes between Poland and the EU.”
Giving in on this issue is less painful
Rzeczpospolita explains why the PiS has accepted the ECJ's ruling without protest:
“The government is at pains now to find a solution to the conflict with the European Commission. After the IPN-law [or 'Holocaust law'] led to a crisis in relations with the US and Israel, the PiS leadership has decided that it needs to reach an understanding with Brussels. ... Backing down on the matter of the Białowieża forest is the least costly option. Making concessions on the question of the courts, which the PiS has already agreed to do, will cost more politically. And there can be no question of ceding on the third issue - the refugees. The PiS believes that settling this conflict with Brussels will pave the way for an election victory in 2019.”