MEPs blast Brussels inaction on Poland’s ‘fence of shame’ in protected forest

The European Commission on Thursday faced condemnation from liberal, left-wing and Green MEPs for failing to impose sanctions on Poland over its construction of a wall along the Polish-Belarusian border that cuts through the Białowieża Forest.

Poland started building the 186-kilometer long wall in February in a bid to prevent migrants crossing from Belarus. The move outraged environmentalists, who warn that the project violates EU nature protection rules and will endanger vulnerable species like wolves, lynx and bison.

Parts of the Białowieża Forest, considered one of the last surviving patches of Europe's primeval forest, are covered by the EU’s Natura 2000 environmental protection network. It is also a cross-border UNESCO World Heritage Site.

In a debate in the European Parliament’s environment committee, Socialists & Democrats MEP César Luena described the Polish wall as a "fence of shame" that is "totally incompatible" with EU nature laws and called on the Commission to ensure it is "immediately" dismantled. [...]

Humberto Delgado Rosa, director of natural capital at the Commission's environment department, told MEPs the Commission is following the issue "closely and will take appropriate action to ensure that requirements under EU law are fulfilled."

He also stressed that decisions on border infrastructure are "very clearly a national responsibility with member states," meaning the Commission's ability to intervene is limited. He added that Brussels continues to encourage countries to use “efficient and proportionate" border control measures that are “based on risk analysis, operational cooperation and information exchange, rather than fences." [...]

Delgado Rosa said the Commission will “request information" from the Polish authorities before launching any legal action.

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