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Poland broke law by logging in ancient forest – EU advocate

The Bialowieza Forest is one of the best-preserved natural forests in all of Europe.

The opinion published by Advocate General Yves Bot could bring a ruling from the EU’s Court of Justice against Poland’s actions in the Bialowieza Forest a step closer.

According to Mr Bot, the court “should rule that Poland has failed to fulfil its obligations” under the EU’s Natura 2000 directives, which protect natural sites of special importance.

Observers said the opinions from the advocate general are often adopted in final rulings.

Poland’s new environment minister Henryk Kowalczyk said the government will abide by any ruling.

He said: “The Bialowieza Forest is of special value for Poland and every action taken so far were solely intended to preserve it in the best condition for the present and future generations.”

In 2016, the previous minister authorised massive logging in the forest, saying he was fighting an outbreak of bark beetle infestation that left dozens of hectares (acres) of dead spruce trees.

Environmentalists and EU experts said the large-scale felling of trees destroys rare animal habitats and plants, in violation of regulations. They held protests and brought the case before the court last year.

In his opinion, Mr Bot said that Bialowieza’s protected site is “one of the best preserved natural forests in Europe, characterised by large quantities of ancient trees, some of which are centuries old, and dead wood”.

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