In the first step of a process that could end up in the European Court of Justice, Brussels has sent a letter to Warsaw, warning that it is breaching several provisions of the EU habitats and birds directives aimed at keeping damage of important nature sites to a minimum.
The road developments as they are currently planned run straight through the Augustow and Knyszyn primeval forests and the Biebrza Marshes national park, both of which are home to large numbers of threatened species of animals and birds. A spokesman for BirdLife in Brussels said: “This sends a clear signal that developments planned without compliance with EU nature legislation will not be tolerated.”
It is not the first legal action being taken against Poland over an environmental issue – the Commission has also warned Warsaw that it has not designated enough Natural 2000 sites. “It’s time the Polish authorities started taking environmental legislation seriously, said a policy officer for WWF-Poland.
The latest legal action highlights a growing concern among environmental and social NGOs that the rapid pace of development in the EU’s newest member states is happening at such a pace that other goals are being ignored.
Earlier this month, CEE Bankwatch and Friends of the Earth published research showing that the EU’s funding for transport in the new member states is threatening to undermine EU goals to tackle climate change and curb transport growth.
The two NGOs analysed the draft operational programmes for the use of Structural and Cohesion funds and found plans to invest massively in roads and motorways as the expense of public transport. They identify Romania, Slovenia, Slovakia and Lithuania as the worst cases, as these four plan to spend little or no EU money on public transport.
Anelia Stafanova of CEE Bankwatch said: “The EU has committed to improve public transport and to shift transport from roads to railways, but its funds are set to subsidise more lorry and car transport. The CEE countries’ spending plans must be revised and refocused to the EU’s sustainable development aims.”
This news story is taken from the December 2006 edition of T&E Bulletin.