BRUSSELS -- The legal adviser to the European Union’s top court says that Poland broke the law by authorizing logging in one of the continent’s oldest forests.
The February 20 opinion by Yves Bot, the advocate general to the European Court of Justice (ECJ), concerns the Bialowieza Forest, one of Europe’s last primeval woodlands.
The forest, which straddles Poland and Belarus, is a UNESCO World Heritage site and home to the largest roaming population of European bison.
The logging started in 2017 after the Polish minister for the environment the previous year authorized a near tripling of wood harvesting there due to what authorities said was a spreading infestation of the spruce bark beetle.
The European Commission took Poland to court last year, and the ECJ ordered a halt on logging in the forest until it rules on the case.
The Luxembourg-based court said in a statement that Bot "proposes that the court should rule that Poland has failed to fulfil its obligations" under EU environment law.
The ECJ, which is expected to issue a ruling in the case later this year, generally follows the legal opinion of the advocate general, though not always.
Poland’s new environment minister, Henryk Kowalczyk, said in a February 20 statement that his country "will respect the definitive judgment of the court on the Bialowieza Forest."
Bot’s opinion comes amid tensions between Warsaw and Brussels on Polish judicial reforms, which the EU calls a systemic threat to rule of law in the country.