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FILE PHOTO: Trees lie in water in a swampy area of Bialowieza forest, the last primeval forest in Europe, near Bialowieza village, Poland May 30, 2016. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel


BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Commission stepped up on Thursday its legal action against Poland over the logging of the protected primeval Bialowieza forest in the north east of the country, warning that the next step would be a lawsuit in the EU's top court.

Last year, Poland passed a law which allows its state-owned forest management company to triple its timber harvesting and start logging also in areas of Bialowieza previously excluded from intervention. The forest is one of the largest and oldest primeval forecast in Europe and is protected under EU law.

"The European Commission is calling on Poland to refrain from large-scale logging in the Bialowieza Forest," the EU executive arm, which is the guardian of EU law, said in a statement.

"This logging is likely to undermine the conservation of habitats and species at the... site, as well as to cause irreparable depletion of biodiversity," it said.

The Commission gave Warsaw one month to respond, halving the usual time for an answer, because of "the threat of serious irreparable damage to the site".

If Poland does not stop the logging within the next 30 days, the Commission will sue it before the European Court of Justice, the EU's top court.

(Reporting By Jan Strupczewski; editing by Philip Blenkinsop)

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