EU Parliament speaks out clearly against the huge Svydovets ski resort project in the Ukrainian Carpathians

On 11 February, the European Parliament adopted the annual report on the implementation of the EU Association Agreement with Ukraine. The report contains a clear criticism of the planned mega ski resort project in Svydovets and illegal logging in the Ukrainian Carpathians. The support of the European Parliament is a great success for the Free Svydovets movement which campaigns for the protection of a unique natural landscape.

Despite several highly regarded, in-depth reports on Ukraine’s forest management by international NGOs (Earthsight) and the EU (TAIEX expert mission) and interventions by leading MEPs, the problems of corruption and illegal logging in Ukraine’s forest sector have in no way been solved. The European Parliament is now increasing the pressure on the Ukrainian government to introduce measures that will ensure sustainable forest management and environmental reforms by placing specific demands in the new report on Ukraine.

According to paragraph 122 of the report, the European Parliament calls on the EU “to contribute to preventing illegal logging in connection with the unlawful Svydovets ski resort project”. The report further requests the Ukrainian government to initiate a comprehensive reform of the forest sector. More precisely, the European Parliament urges Ukraine “to effectively fight illegal logging in accordance with sustainable forestry management and environmental protection standards, and to take action. To put an end to the environmental damage caused by the illegal and unsustainable exploitation of natural resources, such as illegal logging in the primeval Carpathian forests”.

MEP Michael Gahler, Standing Rapporteur on the EU Association Agreement with Ukraine, emphasises: “Ukraine must urgently improve its forestry legislation and administration to curb corruption and illegal deforestation. Moreover, environmental protection rules must be better used to protect the rich natural treasure of the country and open the potential for sustainable, not destructive tourism.” Gahler’s report on Ukraine was adopted by 77.8% of all votes and supported by all main political parties of the European Parliament.

The Free Svydovets movement welcomes these specific demands of the European Parliament. In January 2020, a delegation of the Free Svydovets Group informed the MEPs Michael Gahler and Viola von Cramon about illegal logging and non-transparent activities linked to a planned mega ski resort in the Svydovets massif located in Zakarpattia oblast. The mega project is designed for 28’000 visitors per day and backed by the highly controversial Ukrainian oligarch Ihor Kolomoisky (see report The Svydovets Case).

Svydovets is the source of the Black Theiss, one of the main tributaries of the Danube. The almost untouched ecosystem is home to large carnivors like the European brown bear and 93 plant and animal species listed in the Red Data Book of Ukraine.

The Free Svydovets Group is committed to sustainable development of the Svydovets region in close cooperation with the local population. Project proposals with a focus on low-impact tourism have already been discussed with members of the European Parliament. Further international support is needed to effectively protect the old-growth forests and initiate a sustainable development of the Ukrainian Carpathians.

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