Brexit: Hungary and Poland on EU 'naughty step' says expert
And the bloc is also targeting Bulgaria and Greece, both of which it accuses of breaching air pollution limits for years despite multiple warnings. Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has already indicated he will not back down in the face of Brussels’ attempt to link the behaviour of member states with access to funds from its £677billion coronavirus recovery package.
Both Mr Morowiecki’s country and Hungary, led by Viktor Orban, are threatening to veto the bloc’s seven-year budget in a move which would cause massive disruption – and the European Commission’s decision to refer Poland to the European Court of Justice further highlights the tense nature of relations with Warsaw.
The Commission accuses Poland of a failure to ensure that adequate safeguards are in place to protect forest habitats and plant and animal species, as required under the two separate directives and in line with the EU Biodiversity Strategy.
In a statement issued today, a Commission spokesman said: “The European Green Deal and the European Biodiversity Strategy both indicate that it is crucial for the EU to halt biodiversity loss by protecting and restoring biodiversity.
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“In the case of Poland, while assessments of forest management plans are carried out, Polish law does not provide access to justice with regard to those plans.
“As they may have significant effects on Natura 2000 sites, the public is thus deprived of effective judicial protection.
“Furthermore, Poland exempted forest management from respecting the obligations of strict species protection provided in the Birds and Habitats Directives in 2016, and such exemption compromises the required protection regime.”
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The Commission first sent a letter of formal notice in July 2018, followed by a “reasoned opinion” a year later.
In response, Poland agreed to consider amending its law regarding the exceptions for forest management but no progress has been made to date, prompting the Commission’s decision to refer the case to the ECJ.
The Commission has therefore decided to refer the case to the Court of Justice of the EU.
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The two cases involving Bulgaria and Greece are the latest in a string of EU legal actions over poor air quality in countries including France, Italy and Romania, as Brussels seeks to clamp down on violations which the bloc argues threaten its pollution targets.
The Commission said it will refer Bulgaria to the EU’s top court for exceeding legal limits on particulate matter from 2015-2019 even after the court ordered the country’s government to address the issue in 2017.
Bulgaria faces stiff financial penalties for flouting the previous ruling.
The Commission has singled out Bulgaria as one of the worst offenders in the European Union in terms of exceeding both annual and daily limits on particulate matter.
EU laws require countries to limit particulate matter pollution – but most of the bloc’s 27 members are set to miss targets this year to tackle dirty air.
The Commission also referred Greece to the court for exceeding particulate matter limits in the city of Thessaloniki for every year except one year since 2005.
A spokesman said: “Efforts by the Greek authorities have to date been unsatisfactory and insufficient.”
Air pollution is the biggest environmental health risk in Europe.
Particulate matter contributed to around 379,000 premature deaths in 2018 in the EU, although this was 13 percent lower than in 2009, the European Environment Agency said in a recent report. of logging.
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