EU to investigate Poland over logging in ancient forest

The European Union on Thursday launched an investigation into Polish logging in its ancient Białowieża forest, a protected Unesco World Heritage site which includes some of Europe’s last primeval woodland.

“The commission has launched an infringement procedure against Poland … the commission is in contact with the Polish authorities to make sure that any measures are in line with EU law,” a spokesman said.

“Polish authorities have one month to provide the information requested and once received, the commission will carefully assess this to decide whether further action is necessary.”

The probe comes with Brussels and Warsaw already at loggerheads over changes to Poland’s constitutional court which the EU has warned could merit sanctions as a “systemic threat” to the rule of law.

The Białowieża forest straddles Poland’s eastern border with Belarus and is home to unique plant and animal life, including a herd of some 800 European bison, the continent’s largest mammal.

The Polish government began logging last month, saying it was clearing dead trees to prevent damage caused by the spruce bark beetle, in line with EU regulations.

Environmentalists said instead the logging will destroy an ecosystem untouched for more than 10,000 years and complained to the European commission, the EU’s executive arm.