Poland has decided to ignore a European Union court order to halt large-scale logging in an ancient forest deemed an UNESCO World Heritage site, the latest snub from Warsaw's right-wing government to the EU. Matthew Larotonda reports.
One of Europe's last primeval woodlands: Now entangled in a widening rift between Poland's right-wing government and the European Union. Warsaw announcing it's going to ignore an EU court order to stop large scale logging in ancient Bialowieza (BEE-ALOE-VEECH) Forest, a UN World Heritage site. Now potentially facing up to four million euros in fines from Brussels, and possibly hundreds of thousands of euros more for every day the logging continues. Poland's government says the logging is in compliance with European regulations and protects the forest from an outbreak of beetles dangerous to its trees. But it's not a view shared by environmental groups, some of whom have taken to chaining themselves to logging equipment in protest. They claim the vast majority of trees that have been chopped down are uninfected, and instead the timber profits are being used to win support from the local community for the ruling Law and Justice party, which is often at odds with the EU on environmental issues such as climate change and clean energy. Most of Poland's electricity comes from highly-polluting coal plants. It's the second high-stakes run in between the EU and Poland this month. Earlier Brussels threatened sanctions on its own member state if Warsaw moved forward with judicial reforms critics said was an attempt by the ruling party to gain de-facto control over the country's top courts. Poland's president, normally an ally of Law and Justice, broke with them to veto the bills.