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Key Economic Data 
 
  2003 2002 2001 Ranking(2003)
GDP
Millions of US $ 209,563 187,670 176,300 24
         
GNI per capita
 US $ 5,270 4,570 4,230 71
Ranking is given out of 208 nations - (data from the World Bank)

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Update No: 116 - (25/01/07)

Poles apart
Poland is still reeling from revelations that Stanislaw Wielgus, whom the Vatican had tapped to be Warsaw's next archbishop, had extensive collaboration with the Polish secret police during communism. Wielgus first denied the charge, but, as evidence mounted against him, he stepped down January 7th during a Mass that was meant to mark his installation.
Since then, more Polish priests have resigned over similar charges. The Polish Catholic Church now says a tenth of its clergy probably worked as communist informers, and one priest, Tadeusz Isakowicz-Zaleski, is threatening to publish a book naming names. This is sheer dynamite.
The cases of Wielgus and Holek have some similarities. Communist regimes officially banned organized religion, yet unofficially tolerated it, using priests and clergy to inform on one another and lay people. Both Wielgus and Holek spied on the activities of local clergy who had been exiled in Rome.
Using a code name, Holek went to the Vatican in 1982. According to media reports, he received a yearly salary of 25,000 K to report on such priests as Jaroslav Karvada and Karel Skalický. Reports do not detail how long Holek's collaboration continued, but they do say that the regime was happy enough with his work to give him regular bonuses.
Since then, Holek has called his secret police collaboration "the great mistake of my life."

Differing schools
With the Holek and Wielgus cases, the issue of lustration - the act of vetting public officials to determine whether they collaborated with communist regimes - is once again a subject of discussion, if not outright debate.
The Czech Republic has had a lustration law on the books since 1991 and has set the pace for most former Eastern bloc countries in dealing with their pasts. Slovakia has a lustration law, but experts say it is rarely enforced. Hungary doesn't even have one, and only last summer did the Polish government announce a revamped vetting law and a renewed determination to cleanse the country's halls of power.
"Lustration has always been a source of political struggles in these countries," says Vojtch Cepl, a former Czech Constitutional Court judge and one of the authors of the lustration law. "The struggle is between two schools of thought: One says let's forget and forgive, and the other says that without properly dealing with the past, we will not have a good system of rules for human conduct."
Until recently, Cepl says, Poland's government belonged to the first school. It was only after the elections of Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski and his twin brother, President Lech Kaczynski, that the government there pledged to go after past collaborators serving in public offices.

Judging the past
Throughout the 1990s, more than 300,000 Czechs were screened under the lustration law, with about 5 percent banned from public offices over their pasts. 
Cepl says the Czech lustration law is remarkable for its strictness. The offices from which former regime hands are banned include the government, high-level civil service, security service, state-owned businesses, the central bank, the national railway, high academic positions and the judiciary.
The last time lustration surfaced significantly in the Czech Republic was in 2005, when two high-level judges were accused of prosecuting dissidents during the communist era.
While the names of those two judges - Jitka Horová and Vlasta Formánková - were eventually cleared, the Justice Ministry launched an investigation into the pasts of some 60 judges to verify that all had the certificate required under the lustration law that states they did not cooperate with the secret police.

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All this is about collaboration with one superpower, the USSR that has disappeared from the face of the Earth. But there is still one left, the US. On what terms does one collaborate with them?
The Poles have the third largest contingent of troops in Iraq after the US and the UK. They are beginning to wish they hadn't. There are extensive calls for them to be withdrawn.
But the Poles are incredibly staunch supporters of the West for all that. There were 300 magnificent Polish pilots in the Battle of Britain in 1940, who might have tipped the scales. There were two divisions of Poles at the Battle of Monte Cassino in 1944, an agonizingly attritional, but ultimately successful assault on the last stronghold of the Nazis in Italy and a turning-point in the Second World War.
The war was after all occasioned by the fourth division of Poland in the Nazi-Soviet Pact of August 1939 - one of the grimmest moments of human history.
The US wants missile systems in Poland and the Czech Republic The United States has been negotiating with Poland and the Czech Republic, both former communist states now in NATO, as it explores setting up missile defence sites in Eastern Europe. The US has asked Poland and the Czech Republic to host radar bases that would be part of a global missile defence system, the prime minister announced on January 20th, drawing a warning from Russia of retaliatory actions.
US officials contend the system could defend Europe against intercontinental missiles fired by states such as Iran and North Korea. But the Kremlin warned that the military balance in Europe could be at stake and said the development risked a new arms race.
Independent defence experts have said the ground-based missile defence system is still years from being able to protect against long-range missile attacks.
The US has missile interceptor bases in Alaska and California. It activated a powerful X-band radar site in northern Japan as part of the system last September, but so far has no anti-missile weapons based outside US territory.
The US request that the Czech Republic host only an X-band radar facility could indicate Washington is considering putting launchers for anti-missile missiles in Poland. Czech authorities refused to comment on Poland's possible role. Czech Prime Minister Topolanek said only that he would discuss the issue with his Polish counterpart, Jaroslaw Kaczynski.

The following is an informed analysis of the lustration problem:-

Poland's witch hunt 
Wiktor Osiatynski, IHT, January 22nd 2007 

Poland trembled this month when the newly appointed Catholic archbishop of Warsaw, Stanislaw Wielgus, announced his resignation after revelations that he had collaborated with the Communist secret police. The Wielgus scandal seemed to portend a new era in the church's lustration, or the purging of former secret police collaborators. So far, that has been a slow process, because Pope John Paul II guided the Polish church with principles of reconciliation and mercy rather than revenge. Only after his death did the files on the clergy begin to leak out.
Today in Poland, lustration has become a tool not only of revenge, but of politics. What may look like an effort to reconcile with the Communist past is something else entirely. It is an assault on reconciliation and a generational bid for power.
It has been difficult to deal with the Communist past in Poland in part because the transition was so smooth. Had Communism collapsed abruptly, swift retribution would have been more likely. But the new government promised to establish rule of law, and punishing people retroactively would have violated that basic principle. So a procedure was designed that called for all appointees or candidates for public office (as well as lawyers, but not the clergy) to submit affidavits stating whether or not they had been secret agents. Those who lied were to be disqualified from public service. A special lustration court was established.
But defining what made someone an agent proved a crucial problem. Under Communism, the secret service was omnipresent. It harassed large numbers of people, forcing many to sign loyalty declarations or to collaborate. Most people told them lies, signed the declarations and went home. In 2000, the Supreme Court declared that those who had merely appeared to cooperate, but who avoided providing the security services with any vital information, could not be considered collaborators, even if they signed agreements and met with agents.
Under such criteria, Wielgus was not a secret agent, even though he did sign two agreements in the 1970s to act as an informant and agent for Polish intelligence. The documents do not prove that he ever produced any reports.
Certainly, there were people in cells of the Solidarity underground who got paid to spy on their best friends, and these people did real damage. Unfortunately, the secret police files do not distinguish at first sight between them and others who didn't do much harm. To make a valid accusation, it was necessary to analyse the files and other evidence in detail. But this process was too slow for the advocates of de-Communisation, many of whom have always wanted to use the secret police files as a tool in fighting their opponents.
When historians and some journalists received access to the files, leaks soon began to attract media attention. In January 2005, the entire list of more than 120,000 names was leaked from the Institute of National Memory, where the files are held. The list did not discriminate between agents and those who were merely under surveillance. But its release pushed lustration forward. After the 2005 elections, lustration became a mechanism for enormous generational change in Polish politics and society.
In the early 1990s, the current president Lech Kaczynski; his twin brother Jaroslaw, who is now the prime minister; and their supporters were alienated from their higher-stature colleagues in Solidarity. President Lech Walesa even purged the Kaczynski brothers from his Chancery. So when the twins decided to create the Law and Justice party, they turned to young people on the far right. Now, driven by resentment against an entire generation of older politicians, the Kaczynskis are happy to see them purged from offices and replaced by their own loyalists.
A new lustration law adopted last August seems to fit these purposes well, making it possible to publish the contents of the file of anyone who is active in the public sphere. In other words, now virtually every sitting or aspiring official who lived under Communism is at risk of being slandered.
In Poland, the past has become prey for today's hunters, proving again that whenever history falls into the hands of politicians, distorted truth becomes an instrument for their own goals.

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ENERGY

PKN Orlen gets status of exclusive supplier of MN


The heads of Poland's PKN Orlen and Lithuania's Mazeikiu Nafta (MN) on January 5th signed an agreement giving Orlen exclusive rights to supply MN with crude oil. "Under the agreement signed for an unlimited time and effective as of the date of signing crude oil will be delivered along the Druzhba pipeline and through the marine terminal in Butinge," the MN press service said on January 8th, Interfax News Agency reported.
The price of oil deliveries in the first five years is estimated at US$19 billion.
Following a trade deal in mid-December 2006 PKN Orlen owns over 84 per cent of the Lithuanian oil company. At the end of July 2006 Russia suspended oil deliveries to Lithuania along pipelines on account of a breakdown and the need for repair. Hence Mazeikiu refinery has been operating at approximately half of its capacity and using crude delivered by tankers to Butinge and pumped from there along a pipeline.

Oil concern PKN Orlen to buy crude oil from Mideast 

PKN Orlen oil concern did not rule out the possibility of buying crude oil from the Middle East, reports said on December 22nd citing Igor Chalupec, CEO of the company. Currently the company imports oil from Russia and Venezuela. "Talks are under way, but it is difficult to say when they will end and whether they will be successful," Chalupec was quoted as saying. PKN Orlen is the largest petroleum product retailer in Poland and Central Europe. It finalised the transaction to buy a 30.66 per cent stake in the Mazeikiu refinery from the Lithuanian government recently, thus making PKN Orlen's stake in Mazeikiu 84.36 per cent. Mazeikiu is the biggest refinery in the Baltic states with a maximum processing capacity of 10 million tonnes annually. 

Poland to help build nuclear power plant in Lithuania

Poland will join an international project to build a nuclear power plant in Lithuania. Agreement to build this facility, which will replace the ageing Ignalina power plant in eastern Lithuania, will be signed this year - President of the PSE Polish energy company, Jacek Socha, said in a radio interview recenlty. 
This is a signal to Russia and Europe, experts say. Representatives of the electricity companies of Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Poland met in Warsaw to discuss the project right at a time when Russia cut off the flow of oil to the EU over a transit fee dispute with Belarus. Lithuanian radio journalist, Audrius Braukyla, says the nuclear power plant project is a response to energy blackmail by Moscow. 
'It's the beginning of a new era in the energy field in this part of the world. It is not only about energy but it's also about policy, especially now that the Polish oil company, Orlen, has bought Lithuania's biggest oil refinery, Mazieikiu. Poland is now the biggest foreign investor in Lithuania. This is all a good sign of cooperation towards acquiring independent energy sources.' 
Tomasz Chmal, an analyst at the Warsaw-based Sobieski Institute think tank, says the power plant project shows that the countries of this region are intent on pursuing a new policy that would guarantee security to them. 
'We have to distinguish different issues - one is electricity in which Poland is independent thanks to its coal resources. Cooperation in electric energy is mainly for the benefit of Lithuania, helping it to diversify supplies. Poland is highly dependent on Russian oil, which supplies over 95 per cent of its needs.' 
And if only for this reason Poland will not become independent of Russian oil and natural gas supplies in the foreseeable future. The recent cut of oil supplies over a dispute with Belarus, and when Russia closed the tap on its gas supplies through Ukraine to Europe, alarmed the European energy markets and made them question the reliability of Russia as a supplier. 
Ferran Tarradellas, a spokesman for the European Commission, said, 'The EC has underlined that it is unacceptable that energy suppliers or transit countries do not inform their counterparts of any decisions that may affect the supplies.' 
Tomasz Chmal stresses the need for EU solidarity in the energy security field. 'I hope that Poland and the EU will find a common approach toward Russia. This is crucial to find a common ground for discussion and try to win individual interests, with one country playing against the other. There is a huge need for solidarity.' 
The nuclear power plant to be built in Lithuania, with the participation of Poland, Latvia and Estonia, is expected to become operational by 2015. According to recent surveys some 60 percent of Poles are in favour of using nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

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