Euro 2012 – Ukraine and Poland

August 1, 2007

Poland ends stand-off with EU over road plans

Filed under: Poland,Roads — Ivan @ 4:17 am

By Adam Easton

Poland has temporarily backed down in its stand-off with the European Union over its plans to start work on a by-pass road through the Rospuda river valley, one of Europe?s last remaining pristine wetlands.

The Polish authorities had announced their intention to start work in Rospuda, an environmentally protected valley which is home to rare plant species and animals such as wolves and eagles, on August 1 despite a legal challenge from the European Commission.

Jaroslaw Kaczynski, prime minister, said the bulldozers would not be sent into the valley after Brussels asked the European Court of Justice to issue an immediate injunction to prevent the work going ahead.

?The work in the Rospuda valley will not start. Other sections (of the road) will be built. We simply have to show patience because I wanted to convince our partners in the European Commission on this matter. But it?s difficult to talk about these issues there,? the prime minister said during an interview with public radio.

Mr Kaczynski insisted Poland would eventually defeat the legal challenge against the by-pass. He said there were ?some mistakes regarding the facts?, adding he did not believe the European Commission?s challenge had ?a legal basis?.

EU officials said it would be ?unprecedented? for a member state to ignore interim measures from the European Court of Justice. Had Poland done so, it faced the possibility of incremental daily fines totalling hundreds of thousands of euros.

Poland?s plans have exacerbated recent tensions with Brussels. Mr Kaczynski sees the by-pass as essential to his plans to modernise the EU?s largest eastern European member state, which has just 665 kms of motorway. It plans to build another 1,000km ahead of the Euro 2012 football championships it is co-hosting with Ukraine.

The by-pass would form part of an EU-funded international highway, the Via Baltica, linking Warsaw to Helsinki. But the by-pass itself would not receive EU funds because the Rospuda valley is protected under the EU?s Natura 2000 conservation scheme.

The government wants to build a 17 km long elevated highway right through the heart of the valley to ease traffic in the nearby town of Augustow.

The town lies on the main route from Poland to the Baltic States and thousands of heavy goods lorries pass through it every day.

Hundreds of protesters from the town blockaded the road overnight causing long queues. They want a by-pass built as soon as possible even if it is routed through Rospuda.

Environmental conservation groups have urged the government to consider a shorter alternative route which would be entitled to receive EU funds. But Mr Kaczynski says that route would take too long to complete.

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