Tomasz Poręba, a member of the European Parliament representing Poland’s ruling conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party, has asked the European Commission whether its lack of response to extensive forest logging in Germany’s Bavaria region was "not further proof" of it using "double standards" in its approach to member states, Poland’s wpolityce.pl news website has reported.
“I would like to know if the European Commission will react as firmly in this case as it did in the case of Poland’s Białowieża Forest,” Poręba has said, as quoted by wpolityce.pl.
Bark beetle in Bavaria
The Polish website cited German daily Die Welt as reporting last week that, according to Bavarian forestry officials, about half the area of this German federal state was at risk of bark beetle infestation.
According to the Bavarian forestry administration, the only way to stop the bark-beetle epidemic is to immediately cut down all infested trees and remove them from the forests, wpolityce.pl reported, citing Die Welt.
Meanwhile, “the Polish government, when recently faced with a similar problem in Poland’s Białowieża Forest, was constantly attacked by EU institutions and accused of destroying biodiversity,” Poręba said in his parliamentary question addressed to the European Commission, according to wpolityce.pl.
By posing a parliamentary question to the European Commission, Poręba wants the EU executive to state whether logging under way in Germany’s Bavaria region does not violate EU law and whether punishing other member states, such as Poland, for carrying out similar forest management activities does not mean that Brussels follows double standards in its treatment of member states, wpolityce.pl said.
Row over Polish forest
A top EU court said in April that logging in Poland's primaeval Białowieża Forest was against EU environmental protection laws.
The ruling followed a two-year row between Warsaw and Brussels.
In November last year, the European Court of Justice said that Poland could face fines of EUR 100,000 (PLN 423,000) a day if it failed to comply with a ban on logging in the Białowieża Forest.
The court at the time reiterated its July decision that Poland must immediately stop logging in the forest, pending the court’s final decision on the European Commission's claim that cutting down trees in the Białowieża Forest violated the European Union’s birds and habitats protection rules.
The row over the UNESCO World Heritage-listed forest in Poland's northeast began in mid-2016, when then-Environment Minister Jan Szyszko decided to nearly triple the felling of trees, saying the forest was affected by an infestation of the spruce bark beetle and that falling trees posed a threat to public safety.
Poland’s Białowieża Forest is home to century-old trees, the European bison and a number of bird species.
Szyszko said logging across 34,000 hectares, more than half of the Polish forest, was an effort to protect it.
But the European Commission claimed Poland had failed to prove that logging would not adversely affect the integrity of the ancient forest.
After failing to come to an understanding, the European Commission asked the European Court of Justice to rule on the matter.
The Luxembourg-based court said Poland had failed to explain what “public safety” concerns were being addressed by the logging and that a 2015 management plan did not identify any potential spruce bark beetle threat to the forest.