Polish workers in road protest

Poles working in Brussels held a demonstrated outside their embassy on Monday to show their opposition to a road development which will carve a path through a number of designated nature reserves and threaten a wealth of biodiversity.

The Via Baltica road aims to link the Baltic states to Scandinavia and will make trade easier between the two regions.

But environmental groups have been putting pressure on the Polish government to pay more attention to the damage likely to be caused by an ill-conceived if convenient route.

The pristine wetlands of the Rospuda Valley have become the primary focus for the Polish protesters in Brussels, who wore green ribbons to show their solidarity with those demonstrating at the site of the planned development.

They have past argued that the development is illegal and contractors and the government alike will be liable to pay damages for harming the environment (see related story).

Polish prime minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski proposed on Friday that a referendum would be held among the citizens of Poland's Podlasie region to decide the fate of Rospuda.

But legal specialists and environmentalists have warned that this proposal is unacceptable, stating that a referendum cannot be used to decide whether or not to break the law.

The environmentalists do not dispute the need for the road, simply its route.

Magda Stoczkiewicz, policy coordinator of environmental NGO CEE Bankwatch said: "I can understand that the citizens of Augustow are desperate and want the bypass to be built as soon as possible. They are the victims of 15 years of incompetence from the national and local authorities responsible for the transport sector in Poland.

"With the proposed road through Rospuda, a splendid natural site of European significance and value will also become such a victim. We believe there is an alternative route which can serve Augustow citizens and at the same time save Rospuda, if only Poland decides to obey EU law."

Sam Bond



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