Books on Poland
Update No: 117 - (22/02/07)
Civic Platform Has Slight Lead
The Poles are getting disenchanted with their new government.
In September 2005, voters in Poland renewed their legislative branch. Final
results gave the Law and Justice Party (PiS) 26.9 per cent of the vote and 155
lawmakers in the 460-seat lower house. In October, economic expert Kazimierz
Marcinkiewicz took over as prime minister and Lech Kaczynski won the
In July 2006, deputy prime minister and SRP leader Andrzej Lepper announced that
Marcinkiewicz would resign after he made some decisions without consulting his
coalition partners. Polish president Lech Kaczynski appointed PiS leader
Jaroslaw Kaczynski-his twin brother-as the country's new prime minister.
The opposition centre-right Civic Platform (PO), however, is now the top
political organization in Poland, according to a poll by PBS DGA released by
Gazeta Wyborcza. 30 per cent of respondents in the European country would
support the PO in the next election.
The governing PiS is second with 28 per cent, followed by a coalition of centre-left
parties which includes the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) with 11 per cent, and
the Self-Defence of the Polish Republic (SRP) with five per cent. Support is
lower for the League of Polish Families (LPR) and the Peasant's Party (PSL), and
16 per cent of respondents are undecided.
Early in February, defence minister Radek Sikorski and interior minister Ludwik
Dorn tendered their resignations. Dorn said he opted to leave his post, claiming
opposition to a "seriously flawed policy" proposed by the prime
minister, but added: "I have decided to continue in the cabinet as a deputy
prime minister, because, with rational politicians with a common interest, it is
possible to disagree on particular issues."
The Poles are banking on America, not Europe
There are two countries, Poland and the Czech Republic, which are Donald
Rumsfeld's archetypal "new Europeans." They have a history of being
preyed on by mightier neighbours, basically Russia and Germany, and betrayed by
Western Europeans. They have been warning for years that Russia will return as a
world power and not necessarily as a benign and allied "democracy."
They feel vindicated by developments under Vladimir Putin.
In the days of the Warsaw Pact the Poles were in subjection to Moscow. It should
have been called the Yalta Soviet Pact.
Now the Poles are looking westwards, but further than Western Europe to the US.
The Poles have never forgotten what happened to them as a result of accepting
the British and French guarantee of their security in March 1939. Within six
months they were overrun by the Nazis and Soviets, subordination to
totalitarianism that was to last fifty years almost to the month.
When the cold war ended with the Central Europeans kicking out the Russians, the
former Warsaw Pact countries were left in a security vacuum. Russia wanted to
create a cordon sanitaire in Europe between itself and the EU and NATO. For the
Central Europeans, Western integration became a national imperative to keep
Russia at bay.
The former Soviet satellites were brought into NATO in the 1990s and the EU in
2004. But while happy to be members, the Poles and the Czechs are the biggest
Eurosceptics of the 10 countries that joined in 2004. They are suspicious of the
Germans and feel patronised by the French. They share the British preferences
for the EU, for strong transatlantic ties, minimal political union and no fiscal
They would never turn to Germany or France for security. They see America as
indispensable, their security guarantor of last resort.
A new missile defence system
The United States announced in January that it wants to build a missile
defence system in Central Europe, basing a missile interceptor site in Poland
and a radar system in the Czech Republic. In hitching their fortunes to the
Pentagon's missile shield programme, the Poles and Czechs are taking out an
insurance policy against Russia.
Within about five years the US hopes to have deployed 10 interceptor missiles at
a huge silo, probably in north-eastern Poland, to be fired into space to take
out rogue rockets heading towards America (from they say, Iran, but Putin says
that this is nonsense and that the US are reviving the Cold war), with radar
facilities for the project in the neighbouring Czech Republic. That is the plan,
although there are strong reservations over whether "Son of Star Wars"
will ever fly.
For the Poles and the Czechs, whether the missile shield works is beside the
point. What counts in Warsaw and Prague is getting US bases on their territory.
That makes them feel safe.
The bases put the Americans in Poland and the Czech Republic as never before.
Public opinion is hostile or wary. A referendum on whether to take part would
probably be unwinnable in either country. Which is why no referendums will be
The Czech opposition leader, Jiri Paroubek of the centre-left Social Democrats,
is backing away from referendum calls after being leaned on, say sources, by the
Americans in Prague.
In Poland, the pro-American defence minister, Radek Sikorski, has just resigned
but his departure is unlikely to jeopardise Poland's participation in the
Poland government leaders meet on U.S. missile defence proposal
Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski met with opposition and coalition party
leaders on February 12th to discuss the U.S. request to set up part of the
planned missile defence system in Poland and the Czech Republic. Officials in
both countries said they are willing to start negotiations but have offered no
details on how receptive they are or when talks could start.
"This is a very important decision and it can not be taken without
analysis," Polish government spokesman Jan Dziedziczak said. "All
views must be heard," Dziedziczak stated, adding there will be "many
consultations." He said that the decision on whether to host the missile
defence system would have effects "going far beyond the term of this or
even the future government."
Domestic critics of the missile defence system placement fear it could make the
country a target of terrorist attacks. Poland's deputy prime minister, Andrzej
Lepper, has called for a national referendum on the issue.
The main opposition has come from nearby Russia, whose President Vladimir Putin
blasted the plans during a Munich security conference in February, saying it was
stoking a new Cold War. "Plans to expand certain elements of the
anti-missile defence system to Europe cannot help but disturb us," Putin
said. "Who needs the next step of what would be, in this case, an
inevitable arms race?"
US Defence Secretary Robert Gates later responded, saying the Russian leader's
comments were moot because the missile defence system would "provide
essentially no protection against Russian missiles. It's not directed against
Russia; it's not directed at undermining their deterrent. The irony is it's to
protect our friends and allies," he said.
The following is the annual report on Poland of the Reporters Sans Frontieres,
or Reporters Without Borders for Press Freedom. This admirable organization
investigates abuses of press freedom on five continents.
It is the counterpart to Medicins Sans Frontieres
RSF Annual report 2007
The advent of the coalition government of the Law and Justice (PiS) and
Self-Defence (Samoobrona) parties and the League of Polish Families (LPR) in
late 2005 aggravated relations between officials and the media, except for the
religious media, which were supported and favoured by the government.
The ultra-conservative TV station Trwam was given a scoop on 2 February 2006
about the signing of an agreement between conservatives, the extreme right and
populists. Only journalists from the media group of Father Tadeusz Rydzyk were
given access, sparking outrage among other journalists.
Religion was also the reason behind a 125,000 Euro fine imposed on the TV
station Polsat by the state broadcasting council (KRRiT) on 22 March for
"harming the reputation" of broadcaster Magda Buczek and offending the
feelings of listeners and viewers of her programmes on Radio Maryja and Trwam
after a Polsat talk-show guest imitated her voice and called her an "old
Criticism not tolerated
President Lech Kaczynski and his twin brother Jaroslaw, the prime minister,
did not like being criticised and the Warsaw prosecutor took action in July
against Peter Kohler, of the German daily Tageszeitung, for writing a satirical
article a month earlier about the Kaczynski brothers headed "The new Polish
The government reacted furiously and officials likened Tageszeitung to the
pro-Nazi German press and demanded that the German government condemn the
article. The Polish foreign ministry said on 4 July it would not longer speak to
the paper's Warsaw correspondent, Gabrielle Lesser, who received anonymous
threatening phone calls. President Kaczynski called the article "vile"
and "disgusting" on 7 July.
The editor of the monthly Sukces removed a page from 90,000 already-printed
copies of the April issue for fear of reprisals about an article there in which
a journalist in dispute with the presidential press office (over an article she
wrote in February) continued to state her case.
The deteriorating general situation included influential media-outlets inciting
the public to racial and religious hatred. A commentator on Radio Maryja (with
three million listeners), Stanislaw Michalkiewicz, said in March that "the
Jews humiliated Poland internationally by demanding money" for property
they left behind in Poland. Xenophobic and anti-Semitic remarks increased on the
station without intervention by the KRRiT.
The KRRiT was radically reformed under a December 2005 law and its members
reduced from nine to five, two of whom were named by President Kaczynski, who on
6 February appointed a new chairman, Elzbieta Malgorzata Kruk. The
constitutional court ruled on 23 March that the appointments were illegal and
that the KRRiT was too much under government control.
Editor Andrzej Marek, of the regional weekly Wiesci Polickie, won a four-year
battle against a three-month suspended prison sentence for libel handed down in
2002 for an article a year earlier denouncing corruption of an official in the
town of Police. Marek was ordered imprisoned on 16 January 2006 but the
constitutional court stayed the order and freed him two days later.
But the court refused on 30 October to invalidate article 212 of the criminal
code providing for up to a year in prison for defamation. The court recognised
the importance of press freedom for democracy but said an individual's dignity
and reputation was more important, even though the clause contravened article 10
of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Imported second-hand cars reach 816,800 in 2006
Poland imported a total of 816,800 second-hand cars in 2006, down 6.2 per cent
from 2005, according to Samar institute statistics, New Europe reported.
Samar is an institute which monitors the car market. Over 78 per cent of
imported used cars were manufactured in the 1990s, according to the institute's
report. The average estimated cost of an imported used car was 1,555 zlotys
(US$520) and the most popular makes were Volkswagen, Opel, Ford, Audi, Renault
Poland, Romania talking to US about military bases
Poland expects the United States to open exploratory talks on the possible
stationing of US National Missile Defence (NMD) bases in Poland, Deputy Foreign
Minister, Witold Waszczykowski, said January 22nd in Warsaw, New Europe
"The Americans are prepared to present a proposal to begin talks leading to
a concrete agreement on building bases in Poland and the Czech Republic,"
Waszczykowski told the Polish PAP news agency.
The US confirmed its intentions to begin exploratory talks on NMD bases with the
Czech Republic, according to reports. Unconfirmed reports last year alleged
Pentagon officials had already been scouting the Tatra mountains in southern
Poland for possible missile base sites.
Although he appears open to talks on the matter, last year Poland's President
Lech Kaczynski expressed doubt over giving the US full sovereignty and
diplomatic and legal jurisdiction over any eventual base locations in Poland.
Meanwhile, Polish Defence Minister, Radoslaw Sikorski, has insisted the US would
have to give Poland security guarantees before stationing any NMD bases on its
When asked whether he thought allowing NMD bases to be located in NATO-member
Poland could strain relations with Russia, Sikorski has stressed such concerns
should be made the focus of debate both with Moscow and other NATO members.
A Russian general quoted by Russia's Interfax news agency recently said the
location of US NMD bases in Poland or the Czech Republic would be an
"obvious threat" to Russia.
Last March 2006, Polish media reported that Pentagon experts favoured Poland as
a potential location for the overseas portion of the NMD project, dubbed
"Son of Star Wars" by critics.
The US-based NMD plan is designed to protect it and fellow NATO defence alliance
members, plus Japan, from a potential nuclear missile attack by rogue states.
The idea of a national missile defence system first emerged in the US during the
Cold War confrontation with the Soviet Union. In the 1980s, US President Ronald
Reagan proposed the Strategic Defence Initiative, popularly dubbed "Star
Since shedding communism in 1989, Poland has been among the closest European
supporters of US defence policy. A NATO member since 1999, it was an
enthusiastic backer of the US-led 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq.
Not long before the Polish announcement, officials in Romania said the country
was working to improve the runway of Mihail Koganiceanu airport, the Black Sea
facility that will in summer become a major US military base.
Airport director Corneliu Balan, however, declined to directly link the
improvement works to the planned expansion of the US military presence at the
The repairs are estimated to cost around four million Euro, news agency Mediafax
reported. The airport will remain open during the first construction phase but
will close from March 11th to April 10th.
The United States will by 2008 station up to 1,500 troops in Romania under the
terms of an agreement signed in December 2005 between US Secretary of State,
Condoleezza Rice, and Romanian Foreign Minister, Mihai Razvan Ungureanu.
Koganiceanu airport, located close to the Black Sea port of Constanta, is set to
be the headquarters of the US deployment, with Romanian military facilities in
Babadag, Smardan and Cincu also to be used.
The US intends to use Romanian and Bulgarian military facilities as staging
areas for stripped-down and flexible military units capable of speedy deployment
in Iraq and elsewhere. Romania is also earmarked to host US air force jets and
Rosy economy to be forthcoming
Poland can expect a rosy economy in the coming years, according to a Polish
Central Bank (NBP) report issued on February 1, Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa)
Poland's gross domestic product (GDP) will grow by 5.7 per cent this year and
around five per cent in the period 2008-2009, compared to the 5.8 per cent GDP
growth recorded in 2006 by Poland's Central Statistical Office (GUS).
Unemployment, currently hovering near 15 per cent and among the highest in the
27-member EU, is expected to drop to 10 per cent by 2009, according to the NBP
report. It also predicts strong investment in the period 2007-2008, as well as
growth in exports, tallying at an average eight percent year-on-year in the
period 2007-2009. Imports are also expected to grow by 11 per cent annually.
Stable economic growth creates ample opportunity for a long promised reform of
Poland's public finances, the NBP report noted.
LNG memorandum on energy cooperation inked with Algeria
Poland and Algeria recently signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on energy
cooperation, Polish Economy Minister, Piotr Wozniak, announced on January 17th,
website stratfor.com reported.
According to the minister, Poland's state-owned Polskie Gornictwo Naftowe I
Gazownictwo and Algeria's state-owned Sonatrach were scheduled to begin
exploratory talks on January 18th on a liquefied natural gas (LNG) supply
contract. Poland is looking to receive its first shipments of LNG from Algeria
Tourist intake at end of September rises 16%
Tourists visiting Poland from European Union countries rose by 16 per cent to
almost 12 million up to the end of September, the Polish Tourist Organisation
was cited as saying by Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa).
The number of visitors from Ireland, Britain and the Netherlands rose by 20 per
cent. The historical city of Krakow in southern Poland was the most visited
place, for the first time beating Prague as the fifth most popular city in
Europe, said PTO Vice-President Wojciech Kodlubanski. Worldwide, Poland is the
13th most visited place and in Europe stands at seventh place, it was reported.