Judge dismisses claims by Polish government that logging was necessary to protect ancient forest from outbreak of bark beetles
The EU’s highest court has ruled that Poland’s logging of the ancient Bialowieza forest is illegal, potentially opening the door to multi-million euro fines.
At least 10, 000 trees have been felled in Bialowieza, one of Europe’s last parcels of primeval woodland, since the former Polish environment minister, Jan Szyzko tripled logging limits there in 2016.
Government claims that the forest was bringing protected from a spruce beetle outbreak were rejected by European court of justice magistrates, who said that Poland’s own forest management plans showed that logging posed a greater threat to Bialowieza’s integrity.
A minimum fine of EUR4. 3m, potentially rising to EUR1 00,000 a day, could now be levied against Poland if the tree fells continue.
James Thornton, the chief executive of the green statute firm ClientEarth, told:” This is a huge victory for all defenders of Bialowieza forest. Hundreds of people were heavily engaged in saving this unique, ancient woodland from unthinkable demolition .”
Company loses challenge by Barcelona taxi drivers group, which argued Uber was directly involved in carrying passengers
Uber is a transport services company, the European court of justice( ECJ) has ruled, requiring it to accept stricter regulation and licensing within the EU as a taxi operator.
The decision in Luxembourg, after a challenge brought by taxi drivers in Barcelona, is only applicable across the whole of the EU, including the UK.
Uber had denied it was a transport company, arguing instead it is a computer services business with operations that should be subject to an EU directive governing e-commerce and prohibiting restrictions on the process of creating such organisations.
Lawyers for Barcelona’s Asociacion Profesional Elite Taxi argued that Uber was directly involved in carrying passengers. EU rules on the freedom to provide services expressly exclude transport.
In its ruling, the ECJ said an” intermediation service”,” the purpose of whose purpose is to connect, by means of a smartphone application and for remuneration , non-professional drivers utilizing their own vehicle with persons who wish to attain urban journeys, must be regarded as being inherently linked to a transport service and, accordingly, must be classified as’ a service in the field of transport’ within the meaning of EU law “.
” Consequently, such a service must be excluded from the scope of the freedom to provide services in general as well as the directive on services in the internal market and the directive on electronic commerce ,” the ruling said.
” It follows that, as EU law currently stands, it is a matter of the member states to regulate the conditions under which such services are to be provided in conformity with the general rules of the treaty on the smooth functioning of the EU .”
The ECJ procured Uber’s services were more than an intermediation service. It observed that the Uber app was ” indispensable for both the drivers and the persons who wish to make an urban journey “.
The court also pointed out that Uber exercises “decisive influence” over the conditions under which drivers offer their services. Such an intermediation service, the ECJ concluded, must be regarded as forming an integral component of an overall service, the main component of which is transport.
Uber said:” This ruling will not change things in most EU countries, where we already operate under transportation law. However, millions of Europeans are still prevented from utilizing apps like ours.
” As our new CEO has said, it is appropriate to regulate services such as Uber and so we will continue the dialogue with cities across Europe. This is the approach we’ll take to ensure everyone can get a reliable ride at the tap of a button .”
The TUC’s general secretary, Frances O’Grady, greeted the decision.” Uber must get its house in order and play by the same rules as everybody else ,” she said.
” Their drivers are not commodities. They deserve at the very least the minimum wage and vacation pay.
” Advances in technology should be used to stimulate work better. Not to return to the type of running practices we thought we’d seen the back of decades ago .”
Bernardine Adkins, head of EU, trade and rivalry, at the law firm Gowling WLG, said:” Uber’s categorisation provides vital clarity to its position within the marketplace. Uber’s control over its drivers, its ability to set prices and the fact its electronic service is inseparable from its ultimate consumer experience entails it is more than simply a platform connecting drivers to passengers. For Uber, this entails it needs to comply with the relevant transport regulations governing local taxi services .”
In a separate development, the GMB union has been granted permission to intervene in Uber’s appeal against the decision by Transport for London( TfL) not to renew its Private Hire Vehicle Operator’s Licence.
At a Westminster magistrates court hearing on Tuesday, lawyers for the union argued it should be allowed to raise allegations of excessive hours worked by Uber drivers and its impact on public safety.
GMB claims that Uber encourages and incentivises drivers to work excessive hours and that its business model sets public safety at serious hazard. The full appeal hearing is due to be held in summer 2018.
In announcing their decision in September not to renewed Uber’s licence, TfL said:” TfL has concluded that Uber London Limited is not fit and proper to hold a private hire operator licence. TfL considers that Uber’s approach and conduct demonstrate a lack of corporate responsibility in relation to a number of issues which have potential public safety and security implications .”
Rosa Curling, attorney from law firm Leigh Day who is acting on behalf of GMB, said:” We are delighted that the court has agreed to allow GMB the chance to present its evidence on the safety concerns it has regarding Uber drivers in London so that any decision to grant a licence can be made after hearing all the relevant evidence to ensure correct regulations and safeguards for all .”
Maria Ludkin, GMB Legal Director said:” GMB is pleased that the court has decided that the evidence from our driver members should be an important contribution to their thinking when deciding whether to uphold Uber’s appeal. At last GMB drivers have a real voice.