Poland challenges Europe on ‘via-baltica’ highway

The Polish government announced on 17 July 2007 that the construction of the ‘via baltica’ motorway between Prague and Helsinki would start on August 1 – despite repeated warnings from the Commission that the project contravenes EU rules on biodiversity protection.

In March 2007, the European Commission called upon the Polish government to stop work on the highway as it runs through a Natura 2000 site (see EURACTIV 1/03/2007) and the European Court is currently studying the case.

“I call upon the European Commission to intervene in order to ensure that construction work does not begin”, said Mr. Berman MEP, author of a Parliament report on the controversial project that notably recommended an alternative option “avoiding irreversible damage to unique and valuable sites protected under environmental law”.

The 670km highway linking Prague to Heksinki via Poland and the Baltic states is seen as an important infrastructure project to improve connections between the EU’s Central European states.

Environmentalists had proposed greener alternatives and had warned that the company would be financially liable for the damage caused if the ‘via baltica’ is built (see EURACTIV 29/01/2007).

According to David Hammersein, a Green MEP, “the European Commission and the European Court of Justice’s answers must be straightforward and firm. Otherwise European environmental legislation might soon lose all its backbone.” He recently requested the European Parliament’s Committee on Petitions to write a letter to the Commission asking it to urge the Court of Justice to take action.

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