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WOOD PILE
Poland says compliant with EU court order against ancient forest logging
by Staff Writers
Warsaw (AFP) Nov 21, 2017


EU court threatens Poland with heavy fines over ancient forest logging
Luxembourg (AFP) Nov 20, 2017 - The EU's top court on Monday warned Poland's rightwing government to "immediately" stop logging in one of Europe's last primeval forests or face fines of up to 100,000 euros ($118,000) a day.

The case is the latest in a string of issues causing tension between Warsaw and Brussels, which has watched the Polish administration's recent judicial reforms with alarm.

"Poland must immediately cease its active forest management operations in the Bialowieza Forest, except in exceptional cases where they are strictly necessary to ensure public safety," said the European Court of Justice.

"If there is found to be an infringement, the court will order Poland to pay to the (European) Commission a penalty payment of at least 100,000 euros a day," the Luxembourg-based court added.

Environmental activists welcomed the court's statement.

"Currently financial penalties are, unfortunately, an essential tool to ensure that the best-preserved primeval forest in Europe is protected from further harm," said Agata Szafraniuk, a Warsaw-based lawyer for the ClientEarth environmental group.

"Trees are still being cut down every day, so the court prescribed this measure to guarantee the full protection of this unique forest, and to avoid irreparable damage," she said.

The court first ordered Warsaw to suspend logging in the forest on July 27, pending a final judgement.

The EU had taken Poland to court arguing that the operations were destroying a forest that boasts unique plant and animal life, including the continent's largest mammal, the European bison.

The European Commission, the executive arm of the 28-nation European Union, has warned Poland to comply or see the logging issue added to a broader EU case against Warsaw over the rule of law.

The European Parliament last week voted to start an EU sanctions procedure over Warsaw's controversial judicial reforms that could eventually suspend Warsaw's voting rights in the bloc.

Adding to the trouble, EU President Donald Tusk, a former liberal prime minister of Poland, on Sunday questioned whether tensions between Poland's government with Ukraine and the EU were part of a "Kremlin plan".

Polish PM Beata Szydlo said that by "using his position to attack the Polish government, he's attacking Poland".

Polish Environment Minister Jan Szyszko on Tuesday insisted that Warsaw is already "100 percent" compliant with an EU injunction to stop logging in one of Europe's last primeval forests after the bloc's top court threatened heavy fines.

The Luxembourg-based European Court of Justice on Monday warned Poland's right-wing government to "immediately" stop logging in the Bialowieza Forest or face fines of up to 100,000 euros ($118,000) a day.

Szyszko responded at a press conference that "Poland cannot be hit with any fine for any future activity (in the forest) that will not take place, because Poland is 100 percent following the law."

"Poland will, as before, respect the decision of the European Court of Justice concerning the Bialowieza Forest," he said, adding that Poland would respond within the allotted 15 days to the decision.

Activists, scientists and other critics allege Poland is engaged in commercial logging but the government insists it is only felling trees for public safety reasons in accordance with the EU injunction.

The EU court did allow for exceptions, saying: "Poland must immediately cease its active forest management operations in the Bialowieza Forest, except in exceptional cases where they are strictly necessary to ensure public safety."

The problem lies in the word "necessary," which Poland has interpreted more broadly than the EU court.

Poland's national forest director Konrad Tomaszewski told reporters Tuesday that heavy forestry vehicles, or so-called harvesters, were no longer being used and would notably be replaced with chainsaws to continue the work "to ensure public safety in the forest."

The government began logging in May last year, saying it was clearing dead trees to contain damage caused by a spruce bark beetle infestation, as well as to fight the risk of forest fires and preserve road traffic.

On Tuesday a Greenpeace Poland activist, Kasia Jagiello, said that the group was calling for the creation of a commission that would include representatives of the environment ministry, as well as independent scientists and NGO representatives.

"Only in this way will we be able to know for sure whether the safety rationale is being misused to violate the law in the Bialowieza Forest," she told AFP.

Szyszko told reporters Tuesday that he has repeatedly invited scientists, environmental activists and foreign diplomats to visit the forest to see the situation for themselves.

Bialowieza includes one of the largest surviving parts of the primeval forest that covered the European plain 10 thousand years ago.

The vast woodland, which straddles the border with Belarus, is home to unique plant and animal life, including 800 European bison, the continent's largest mammal.

Brazil exports murder-tainted illegal logging: Greenpeace
Rio De Janeiro (AFP) Nov 21, 2017 - Endangered Amazon hardwood sold by a Brazilian exporter allegedly behind the massacre of nine farmers this year is being sold unimpeded around the world, Greenpeace said Tuesday.

The environmental pressure group said the purchase of murder-tainted products by importers from as far apart as Japan and the United States illustrates lack of control over a logging industry ravaging the world's greatest rainforest.

In its report, "Blood-Stained Timber -- Rural violence and the theft of Amazon timber," Greenpeace catalogued continued large-scale shipments from the Madeireira Cedroarana sawmill in the months following the April 19 massacre.

Police accuse the company's owner, Valdelir Joao de Souza, of sending a death squad dubbed "the hooded ones" to attack poor farmers in the way of logging expansion in a timber-rich area of Mato Grosso state.

Victims were tortured, then shot or hacked to death, at least one of them with his hands tied behind his back. De Souza has been charged but is currently evading arrest.

Despite the scandal, de Souza's "timber milling and export operations continue unimpeded, as witnessed by Greenpeace during a July 2017 field expedition," the report said.

Greenpeace said companies in the United States, Holland and France were the biggest importers of Cedroarana timber in the last year. Clients were also located in Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Italy and Japan, the report said, citing trading data.

"On the day of the massacre, the company shipped loads of timber to the United States and Europe," Greenpeace said.

The massacre of the nine farmers in a remote area was especially bloody, but hardly shocking in a country with around 60,000 murders a year. Far-flung regions, where powerful ranchers and loggers are blamed by environmentalists for massive deforestation, are among the most dangerous.

"Such brutal violence is a feature of the everyday lives of rural communities in Brazil, especially in the Amazon, where violent conflicts over land are a frequent occurrence, driven both by illegal loggers and by land grabbers who clear the forest illegally to grow crops or pasture cattle," the Greenpeace report said.

The report said that the story of the Mato Grosso massacre and the apparent impunity so far for the alleged mastermind's company reflects much broader brutality and illegality in the Amazon timber industry.

"Many of the deaths and much of the violence that have occurred in recent decades could have been prevented if the problem of illegal logging had been taken seriously by successive Brazilian governments," Greenpeace said.

But foreign companies have an equal responsibility, the report said, stressing that seemingly strict US and EU legislation against illegal wood imports is not properly applied.

WOOD PILE
EU court threatens Poland with heavy fines over ancient forest logging
Luxembourg (AFP) Nov 20, 2017
The EU's top court on Monday warned Poland's rightwing government to "immediately" stop logging in one of Europe's last primeval forests or face fines of up to 100,000 euros ($118,000) a day. The case is the latest in a string of issues causing tension between Warsaw and Brussels, which has watched the Polish administration's recent judicial reforms with alarm. "Poland must immediately c ... read more

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