Books on Poland
% of GDP
Update No: 113 - (26/10/06)
Premier meets Pope
The Polish Prime Minister, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, took time off from a domestic
political crisis, that could have seen his government toppled, to visit Rome to
meet the Pope and leading cardinals. Actually, it was a shrewd move. The Papacy
is revered in largely Catholic Poland, as nowhere else, given the enormous role
its Catholic allegiance has played in its history.
The meetings came five months after the pope visited Poland, the native land of
his predecessor, John Paul II. The German pontiff's four-day visit to Poland -
which included a stop at the Auschwitz-Birkenau camps - drew an estimated 2.5
million faithful to Masses and other religious events.
The Polish prime minister also prayed by the tomb of John Paul, who died in
April 2005. John Paul's staunch opposition to communism, is credited with
inspiring the rise in the 1980s of Poland's pro-democracy Solidarity movement,
which helped end communist rule in 1989.
Kaczynski sees eye to eye with Benedict on virtually everything, as he wanted to
remind his compatriots. The Pope and Poland's prime minister discussed their
common views on abortion, stem cell research, same sex marriage and in-vitro
fertilization in talks on October 12th, but avoided discussion of the death
penalty, where they differ.
Motherhood & Apple Pie
Benedict and Kaczynski touched upon "religious and moral problems that
touch the lives of the states, especially those related to bioethics, defence
and promotion of life and the family, solidarity, religious freedom and dialogue
between cultures," the Vatican said in a statement following the meeting.
The Holy See opposes abortion, embryonic stem cell research, same-sex marriage
and in-vitro fertilization - a position that is in line with the conservative
pro-Catholic values of Kaczynski's party, Law and Justice, and with the views of
a many others in this predominantly Catholic country.
Benedict has been continuing a drive by his predecessor, John Paul II, to
encourage Europe into rediscovering its Christian roots even as many
non-Christian immigrants and their families become settled on the continent.
At a news conference later, Kaczynski, gave few details of the meeting, saying
only that "I spoke to the pope as one of millions of Polish Catholics, not
as a politician." Speaking through a translator, he then said the meeting
was "cordial and moving." All good politics!
Kaczynski said the two did not discuss the prime minister's stance in favour of
the death penalty - which the Vatican opposes, and the prime minister reiterated
in an interview published in Milan daily Corriere della Sera on the same day.
"I don't see a reason why the state should guarantee the criminal a
condition that is by a long stretch better than that of the victim,"
Kaczynski told Corriere. The death penalty has been a point of friction between
Poland and Western Europe since President Lech Kaczynski - the prime minister's
twin brother - made similar remarks this summer in support of capital punishment
in murder cases.
That prompted the Council of Europe to warn Poland in August that reintroduction
of the death penalty would violate the country's international commitments and
could cost Poland its membership in the human rights watchdog.
The prime minister also met with Cardinal Tarciso Bertone, the Vatican's No. 2
official, and the two discussed international issues and the Catholic Church in
Poland, Kaczynski said without elaborating.
Kaczynski met later in the day with Italian Premier Romano Prodi, with the two
discussing bilateral relations and their countries' commitment to the U.N.
peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon. Italy is contributing the largest
contingent - 2,500 troops - to the mission, with about 1,000 Italian soldiers
already deployed. Poland plans to send up to 500.
Polish reshuffle; three-party coalition re-assembled
Poland has been in a politically unstable state. But a new government was
formed in mid- October a few days after the premier returned from Rome. that was
resoundingly endorsed by parliament. The crisis is over for now.
Kaczynski must be chuckling at his astuteness. He deserves to end his days as a
His governing Law and Justice party has restored a coalition with a populist
party that was kicked out of the Cabinet on September 21st, Polish radio
reported on October 16th, citing a senior governing party member. Kaczynski had
made decisive progress in talks with the spurned Self-Defence, led by former
farmer Andrzej Lepper.
Kaczynski's nationalist conservative party had in May sealed a coalition deal
with Self-Defence and the smaller, ultraconservative League of Polish Families.
But the coalition, which gave the government a majority in parliament, collapsed
when Kaczynski fired Lepper from the Cabinet, citing constant criticism and
demands. Lepper fell out of grace for his frequent attacks on government policy
and demands for more spending from the strapped budget.
Kaczynski reconciled with Lepper after he failed to find another coalition
partner that would give him a working majority. As part of the new deal Lepper
was reappointed to his old posts of deputy prime minister and agriculture
Prime Minister Kaczynski, twin brother of President Lech Kaczynski, sealed the
new deal, as lawmakers prepared to a vote on whether to dissolve parliament,
triggering elections three years ahead of schedule. In fact the conservative
government easily survived a vote on the dissolution of parliament on October
17th, staving off early elections a day after reassembling a three-party
The motion to dissolve was supported by 182 lawmakers and opposed by 243 in the
460-seat lower house, leaving it well short of the two-thirds majority required
to trigger snap elections. There were 22 abstentions.
The motion was brought by the pro-market opposition Civic Platform, which has
opened a double-digit lead in recent polls over the governing Law and Justice
Parliament also rejected a second, identical motion filed by the ex-communist
Democratic Left Alliance to dissolve the legislature. That vote failed 180-242,
with 25 abstentions.
The decision by Law and Justice to reassemble a coalition with the farm-based
Self-Defence Party and its fiery leader, Andrzej Lepper, assured that the
government would stay in power. While the two parties, plus the
ultraconservative League of Polish Families, signed a preliminary deal late
October 16th, it remained to be seen whether the agreement would end weeks of
political turmoil in Poland.
Kaczynski's new coalition is just one seat short of a majority, after a lawmaker
from Self-Defence left his party the same day in protest. The alliance now has
230 of the 460 seats in parliament.
The coalition still hopes to pick up votes from the 15 lawmakers in the
right-wing National People's Movement to help it pass legislation - allowing it
to govern despite its lack of a clear majority. Parliament Speaker Marek Jurek,
from Law and Justice, said earlier Tuesday that in practice the government now
enjoys a majority because the National People's Movement would support the
government's programme. "There is a parliamentary majority - it's a good
sign," Jurek said in an interview on state radio. "The National
People's Movement is not in the opposition, but is a pro-government
Leading Law and Justice member Kuchcinski said the leaders were still trying to
work through some differences of opinion. "I must honestly say that there
is progress with each meeting," Kuchcinski said, adding that the goal now
was to draw up rules preventing a repeat of "certain mistakes and
shortcomings" that led to the crisis.
The political crisis has brought pro and anti-government protesters onto the
streets, and it is still far from clear who will be in government next year.
Latest opinion polls say the opposition Civic Platform has gained nine
percentage points in the past turbulent month to hold a 13 point lead over
Kaczysnki's Law and Justice party.
Poland to propose EU reforms in 2007
European Commission President José Manuel Barroso was in Poland for a visit
at a sensitive time in mid-October. Barroso came to try and disarm sceptics who
say Brussels interferes too much in Polish affairs. He also stressed Europe had
to find a better balance between centralised and state decision-making.
President Kaczynski said he thought Poland, the EU's sixth largest member, would
be able to put forward proposals for European reform by early next year, after
Germany takes over the EU presidency on January the first.
The Poles are not keen on any EU constitution, and their willingness to offer
alternatives is one way of heeding Barroso's call for Poland to play an active
role in the debate on the EU's future.
Discovery Networks launches channels in Poland
Discovery Networks International, a division of Discovery Communications, will
shortly launch seven channels on the new ITI Neovision DTH platform in Poland
before the end of 2006, reports revealed recently. Two of the channels debuting
on ITI Neovision would be new to the market: Discovery HD, Poland's first
factual entertainment high-definition channel, and Discovery Historia, a
contemporary history channel, website worldscreen.com reported.
Discovery Networks' existing portfolio of five television brands in Poland,
including flagship channel Discovery Channel and Animal Planet, will also be
available on the ITI platform. Created specifically for the Polish market, the
channels will consist of both local and international productions encompassing
Polish, military, modern and ancient history presented in a variety of formats
and from different viewpoints. Local productions will be supplied via
programming cooperation with TVN, Poland's largest privately owned television
broadcaster. The channel is expected to launch on the ITI platform in November
Polish-Lithuanian agreement to hook up power grids
Lithuania and Poland on September 29th formally agreed to build a strategic
"energy bridge" hooking up the electrical power grids of both
countries for between 300 and 400 million Euro, Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa)
Polish President, Lech Kaczynski, and visiting Lithuanian President, Valdas
Adamkus, signed a joint declaration on the project in Warsaw. Striving to ease
its heavy reliance on Russian energy supplies, the Baltic state of Lithuania has
been seeking the link with Poland for years. It has also proposed that Poland
become a partner in building a third reactor at Lithuania's Soviet-era Ignalina
nuclear power station. Fellow Baltic states Estonia and Latvia, also keen to
diversify energy suppliers and ease energy reliance on Russia, have expressed
interest in the project. Lithuania also recently concluded agreements to hook up
to the Swedish electrical power grid with a cable under the Baltic Sea. It is
considering a similar link with Finland. As a sign of more fusion between the
Polish and Lithuanian energy sectors, Poland's major PKN Orlen oil refiner is
also in the process of buying-out Mazeikiu Nafta, Lithuania's only oil refiner.
Poland moves to warm chilly climate of bilateral relations with Russia
Poland and Russia took steps on October 5th to thaw frosty relations in talks
covering key trade, defence, energy and historic issues between the foreign
ministers of the two states, Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa) reported.
Creating "a good climate" in bilateral relations was the most
important task facing Russia and Poland, Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs,
Sergei Lavrov, told reporters in Warsaw following talks with Poland's Foreign
Minister, Anna Fotyga.
Lavrov's two day visit to Warsaw, the first to Poland in two years by a high
ranking Russian official, is regarded as laying the ground work for a possible
top-level meeting between the presidents of Poland and Russia next year.
Lavrov said Russia wants "transparent" talks regarding any moves by
the United States to install National Missile Defence (NMD) bases in NATO and EU
The US has not made any formal proposal to base anti-missile silos in Poland,
but media reports in Poland have suggested that exploratory talks on the matter
have taken place. Russia has voiced objections to the prospect of the European
arm of a future US anti-missile shield being located in Poland.
Polish-Russian relations have also been strained over Russian and German plans
to build a natural gas pipeline across the Baltic Sea floor to pipe Russian gas
to EU member Germany.
Fotyga reiterated Poland's "negative position" regarding the project.
Along with EU Baltic state partners Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, Poland
objects to the planned pipeline, which bypasses all four states as posing a
threat to their energy security. All four states are also heavily reliant on
Russian energy supplies. Fotyga confirmed Russia had been informed about
Poland's plans to diversify its energy suppliers.
Lavrov confirmed Russia would push ahead with the Baltic pipeline project, which
he insisted would serve to improve the energy security of Western Europe. Fotyga
also said she had raised the issue of interrupted flow of Russian crude oil
supplies to Lithuania's Mazeikiu Nafta oil refinery. Poland's leading PKN Orlen
fuels giant is in the process of buying out Mazeikiu.
Russian crude oil supplies to a refinery were significantly reduced recently
over a breakdown in a Russia state-run pipeline supplying it. Russia has vowed
the problem is purely technical. Russia-Poland trade relations were also on the
agenda of the talks in Warsaw.
Poland ranks as Russia's fourth trade partner among the 25 EU states, with a
near record US$10 billion in turn-over in the first seven months of this year.
It is, however, still waiting for Russia to lift a year-long import embargo on
agricultural products, particularly meat.
Lavrov and Fotyga also confirmed the creation of a new joint task force for
"difficult issues" set to focus on controversial historical matters
including the 1940 Katyn massacre. Poland has strongly protested about Russia's
refusal to identify the mass execution of Polish officers by the Soviets in 1940
as an act of genocide.
Up to 28,000 Polish soldiers were killed on the orders of Soviet dictator Joseph
Stalin in the Katyn Forest, western Russia. The Soviets however blamed Nazi
Germany for the massacre, admitting to the crime in 1990.
Japanese investment in Poland hits billion-Euro mark
Japanese companies invested close to one billion Euro in Poland between 1989 and
2005, with more investment inflow expected in the near future, according to a
senior Polish government minister. Global Japanese firms such as tyre
manufacturer Bridgestone, electronics giants Panasonic, Sharp, Toshiba and car
maker Toyota have already set up shop in Poland, a member of the European Union
since May 2004. "Most Japanese companies have taken advantage of investment
incentives offered by Poland's 14 special economic zones," Deputy Economy
Minister Andrzej Kaczmarek was quoted by the press as saying on September 26 in
Warsaw, New Europe reported.