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article imagePoland accuses EU's top court of bias in primeval forest case

By AFP     Sep 13, 2017 in Environment

Poland on Wednesday accused the EU's top court of taking sides in a lawsuit lodged by the European Commission against it for logging in the Bialowieza Forest, Europe's last primeval woodland.

Warsaw and the Commission argued their cases on Monday before the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in Luxembourg, where Poland is accused of commercial logging in the protected UNESCO World Heritage site and failing to obey the court's temporary logging ban.

"An unprecedented incident took place during this session, and the court's vice-president(Antonio Tizzano) took the role of the plaintiff by making suggestions to European Commission representatives about the content of their motion," Poland's environment ministry said in a Wednesday statement.

Polish media maintain that Justice Tizzano only intervened in a procedural capacity when it became apparent that the commission official was ill-prepared to offer testimony.

The ministry, however, insisted that "the main objective (of ongoing proceedings) is to humiliate Poland."

Poland's right-wing government began logging in May last year, saying it was clearing dead trees to contain the damage caused by a spruce bark beetle infestation, and insisting the policy was entirely legal.

But scientists, ecologists and the EU contest the move and activists allege that it is being used as cover for the commercial logging of protected old-growth forests.

"We are respecting the temporary ban and go prove otherwise!", Poland's chief forester Konrad Tomaszewski told Polish media on Wednesday.

But during Monday's ECJ hearing, the commission representative showed photographic evidence of ongoing logging in areas protected by UNESCO and the EU's Natura 2000 programme.

The ECJ is expected to give its final ruling in the case in early October.

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