European Commission weighs in on Šumava logging

Photo: CTK

The European Commission has asked the Czech government to halt logging in the Šumava National Park. Czech authorities resumed felling bark-beetle infested trees in Šumava this week to prevent the spreading of the beetle infestation. But the European Commissioner for the Environment says logging should cease until the government justifies the move.

Photo: CTK
Logging began anew this week in the vicinity of Modrava, in the heart of the Šumava National Park. The authorities say that felling of bark-beetle infested trees in the only way to prevent the spreading of the beetle to healthy parts of the park. But Czech environmentalists, who last year launched a series of blockades to prevent the logging, believe the forests in the core areas of the park should be left to deal with the infestation without outside intervention.

Some 700 trees should be felled this season despite a warning from the European Commissioner for the Environment, Janez Potočnik who asked the Czech Environment Ministry to stop logging in the Šumava National Park before a consensus on the issue is reached. Mr Potočnik’s spokesman, Joe Hennon, spoke to Czech Radio in Brussels on Monday.

“What we’d like to hear from the Czech government is first of all, why they are doing this, and if it can be justified because we have received many complaints about this from a variety of people. We have warned the Czech government that we expect this to stop, and secondly, that they should carry out an assessment. So we would like to see the Czech government’s response to that.”

The Czech Environment Ministry’s response to the letter has been cautious. Minister Chalupa said he would not interfere with the park management’s logging plans but would explain why the measure is necessary. Matyáš Vitík is a spokesman for the Environment Ministry.

“Minister Chalupa has declared his intention to meet Commissioner Potočnik and explain the situation to him so that he does not have just one-sided information. We are not opposed to discussion; it’s logical that the commission is interested in Šumava because the issue has been there for several decades and it is only the current minister who is taking the situation seriously.”

A leading Czech environmental NGO, Hnutí Duha, has filed a complaint with the country’s environmental inspection authority about the recently resumed logging in Šumava, and the ministry says it will wait for the outcome, and act accordingly. Meanwhile, Commissioner Potočnik has made it clear that he will take the Czech government to court if need be as the commissioner’s spokesman, Joe Hennon said.

“We were clear in our letter that we would not hesitate to go down the course of legal action if we need to because the commission is there to make sure that EU environmental legislation is enforced. We would hope it would be resolved without legal action but potentially, if the Czech government does not take action, we would then start legal proceedings which could ultimately end up in the court.”

The European Commissioner for the Environment Janez Potočnik set no deadline for the Czech government to act but Mr Hennon says they expect a reply should come reasonably soon.