Books on Poland
% of GDP
Update No: 109 - (29/06/06)
There is no doubt that Poland, the largest country in Central
Europe, sets the tone for the region. The Czech Republic has just emulated it in
voting for a right-wing conservative government.
The regime in Warsaw is in a class of its own for bigotry and spleen. It is
characterized by anti-semitism, traditional to Poland, and homophobia, which
owes something to its brand of Roman Catholicism, as well as Islamophobia and a
Europe condemns Poland for homophobia and human rights abuses
The European Parliament at Strasbourg in early June voted to condemn Poland and
its government for homophobia. The condemnation came in a resolution regarding
the increase in racist and homophobic violence in Europe which was offered by
the Socialist group, the EuroParliament's second largest political formation.
The resolution passed by a vote of 301 in favour to 161 against, with 102
The condemnation specifically cited "the declarations by a leading member
of the League of Polish Families inciting violence against GLBT people with a
view to the march for tolerance and equality." The League, a notoriously
homophobic and anti-Semitic party, is a member of the ultra-conservative ruling
coalition government in Poland led by President Lech Kaczynski and his twin
brother Jaroslav, who controls the Polish Parliament.
A vice-president of the League, Wojciech Wierzejski, a front-bencher in the
Polish Parliament, had notably targeted the Warsaw Gay Pride March for Equality
held June 10, saying, "If the deviants will start demonstrating, they need
to be bashed with a thick club."
An editorial in the June 11th New York Times, "Poland's Bigoted
Government," condemned the country's "right-wing nationalist
government that seems intent on violating the rights of minority groups,
beginning with an attack on gays." The newspaper cited Wierzejski's
declaration and actions by President Kaczynski's regime as evidence that the
"government's actions give an official wink to bigotry."
The Euro Parliament's resolution also demanded that European Union
representatives at the upcoming G8 summit meeting "raise the issue of human
rights with Russia as a matter of urgency, in particular the right to
demonstrate peacefully." This was a reference to the Moscow mayor's ban on
the May 27th Gay Pride March in the Russian capital, which was violently broken
up by police and fascists, with its organizers arrested.
The resolution included a list of recent homophobic, xenophobic, anti-Semitic,
Islamophobic, and racist murders and violent attacks in Europe, saying the
Parliament "condemns" all such attacks, and "expresses its
solidarity with all victims of such attacks and their families."
Also mentioned in the resolution was "the attack against Michael Schudrich,
chief rabbi of Poland, which took place in Warsaw." Schudrich was beaten in
the street by a Polish nationalist yelling anti-Semitic slogans the day before
Pope Benedict XVI visited the homeland of his predecessor, John Paul II, in May.
The Polish government has recently multiplied its homophobic actions, including
the launch of a criminal probe of all Polish gay organizations and their
financing at the demand of the League of Polish Families. Just ten days before
the EuroParliament passed its resolution, Poland's minister of education, Roman
Giertych-president of the League of Polish Families-fired the head of his
ministry's department of teacher training, Miroslaw Sielatycki, for having
published and distributed a Polish-language version of an official teacher
training manual from the Council of Europe which contains a section on how to
educate against homophobia and how to better understand the subject of
homosexuality. The manual urged collaboration between schools and LGBT groups
that could lead to representatives of those organizations speaking to student
The largest Polish teachers union, the ZNP, defended Sielatycki and his
distribution of the training manual as legitimate.
Following the firing of Sielatycki by Giertych, the secretary-general of the
Council of Europe, Terry Davis, officially demanded an explanation from the
Polish government, and expressed his regret that Poland and other member
countries of the Council of Europe had done nothing to combat and eradicate
homophobia within their borders.
In early June, the League of Polish Families' youth arm, the All-Polish Youth,
filed a legal proceeding with the minister of justice against the Warsaw
Pride-Equality March for "creating a danger for the inhabitants" of
Warsaw. Giertych was the founder, and remains honorary president, of the
All-Polish Youth, many of whose members are skinheads, and which is noted for
its violent homophobia and its thuggish physical assaults on gay demonstrations
The Pride-Equality March, Poland's largest ever, drew between 6,000 and 10,000
participants on June 10, including many from other European countries, among
them more than 1,000 Germans, mostly from Berlin, and delegations from Sweden,
France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, the UK, the Czech Republic, and Latvia.
Twenty members of the EuroParliament from various countries also joined the
The Polish press last reported that another notoriously homophobic member of the
Polish Parliament affiliated with the League of Polish Families, Krzysztof Bosak,
led a group from the League's All-Polish Youth in taking photographs of the gay
marchers and their supporters in the Warsaw Pride-Equality March. This is not
the first time that the extreme right has taken hundreds of photographs of
participants in gay and anti-fascist demonstrations, and some Polish media are
asking whether there is a link between Bosak's photo-taking and the Web site
Redwatch, which has published names, photos, and addresses of gay and left-wing
activists and called for their murder.
Redwatch is a front group for the Polish branch of the neo-Nazi international
Blood and Honour movement, and many members of the All-Polish Youth are also
members of Blood and Honour. A young ecology activist was recently stabbed after
his name and photo appeared on the Redwatch Web site.
Polish minister demands apology over EU report
Poland's deputy prime minister demanded an apology for the recent European
Parliament resolution singling out Poland as a country where racism and
homophobia are on the rise. Roman Giertych, who heads the right-wing League of
Polish Families, called the report "slanderous" and insisted that the
EU body was out of line. "I call on the parliament members to show one
instance where the party leaders called for violence," Giertych told a news
The resolution, drafted by liberal groups and adopted on June 15th, had, as we
have seen above, said acts of homophobia and anti-Semitism were on the rise in
Poland and that leaders of the League "incite people to hatred and
Giertych's party promotes conservative Roman Catholic values and includes a
youth wing that has attacked gay rights marches in Poland. Their recent entry
into the government has raised concerns in Europe. Giertych, who is also
education minister, argued that recent remarks of prominent party member
Wojciech Wierzejski advocating violence against homosexuals had been misquoted
by Polish newspapers and most likely sparked the resolution.
Poland 'least ready for Euro'
It is not only in its political attitudes that Poland is out of date, but
also in some of its entrenched economic structures and policies. The European
Commission has released a report, which points to Poland as the least prepared
EU newcomer to adopt the Union's common currency.
The first tentative and unofficial date Poland quoted for its euro zone entry
had been 2008. Then it had been pushed for one year longer, while current
opinions speak of 2012 as the earliest feasible target. Why just opinions and
not official statements? Polish Radio's Brussels correspondent Beata Plomecka
says that is one of the reasons why the European Commission put Poland at the
very bottom of the list of ten new EU members.
"The Commission reckons it is mainly due to the fact Warsaw still hasn't
made any political decision on the target date for the entry," she says.
"Experts underline Poland hasn't created a national body in charge of the
change over preparations and a national plan hasn't been adopted. Such a plan is
needed to provide guidance to all sectors concerned, as well as to ensure a
smooth change over. Only Poland doesn't know how long it will run the zloty
together with the new euro. Also, the government in Warsaw hasn't prepared its
national style of euro coins. All coins are the same in the euro zone, except
their reverse. Here, individual countries prepare their own projects"'
It is clearly visible from the character of the shortcomings that there is some
kind of reluctance on Poland's part to work harder for the cause. Tomasz Teluk,
head of the Centre For The New Europe in Brussels, considers the stand an
outcome of certain calculations.
"Some politicians, especially from the party in power (...Law and
Justice...), think early Polish integration with the euro zone is not profitable
for Poland," he says. "We can observe a lack of optimism among new EU
members. The Baltic States - these countries are prepared to become euro zone
members, but they don't want to do it immediately. I think the Polish government
has similar strategy."
Dr Tomasz Teluk explains the Polish fears could be connected with some negative
experiences in introducing the common currency by older EU members. "
Polish politicians judge that very fast integration could have negative
influence on the Polish economy. Especially on rising prices for consumers,
growing inflation or budget deficit."
Slovenia is to be the first country from among the 10 EU newcomers, which is to
switch to the euro. Slovenians will start paying bills and doing their shopping
with the new currency already as of January next year. If the transition evokes
positive opinions, maybe countries such as Poland will show more incentive in
making an effort to enter the euro zone.
Airports still experiencing a boom
In the first-quarter of 2006, the number of passengers at Polish airports
totalled 2.7m, 34 per cent more than in the same period in 2005 and 83 per cent
more than in the first-quarter of 2004. Warsaw Okecie may still be the market
leader, but is losing its position. In the first-quarter of 2005, Okecie was
used by 68 per cent of all passengers travelling through Poland and in the
first-quarter of this year the figure dropped to 56 per cent. Regional airports
such as Krakow or Wroclaw are becoming increasingly important due to the dynamic
development of budget airlines, the website www.wbj.pl reported.
Adam Borkowski, the spokesperson for the Civil Aviation Office, forecasts:
"In 2030, the number of passengers passing through Polish airports may
exceed 63 million." However, he underlined that such a high level cannot be
maintained without investment in the airport infrastructure.
IMF expects higher growth
Susan Schadler, the head of IMF's Polish mission, on May 22nd said the
International Monetary Fund (IMF) raised its prediction for Poland's economic
growth this year to 4.8 per cent. According to the Polish News Agency, PAP, the
IMF, which had previously forecast a four per cent growth for the year 2006,
also foresaw an increase of 4.5 per cent for the country in 2007.
Schadler was quoted as saying that for the first time Poland was witnessing
positive signs including a strong and balanced growth, low inflation and
expanding employment. However, the IMF chief encouraged the Polish government to
make further efforts to reduce its budget deficit to 26 billion zloty (US$8.5
billion) in year 2007, from 30 billion zloty (US$9.8 billion) planned for this
year. Poland would also benefit from an "early" accession to the
Eurozone, Schadler declared, without giving an exact date. She viewed the
greatest challenge for the Polish economy in 2007 as the fiscal policy. She
said: "Stabilisation of the public debt is exceptionally important for
foreign investors." Even if the public sector deficit fell to 4.5 per cent
of the GDP, the public debt would total 49 per cent of the GDP at the end of
this year, she added. Schadler proposed a strong banking sector, strong banking
supervision and an independent central bank as part of the important foundations
of the Polish economy.
SPECIAL TRADE ZONES
Special trade zones attract more investors
Polish special trade zones are attracting more and more foreign investors with
tax relief and subsidies. "The year 2005 was a record year," Maciej
Rapkiewicz, head of the special trade zone in Lodz, commented. Several new
production sites have been set up since the grounds of an old factory in the
Polish industrial city were turned into such a zone 10 years ago, Deutsche
Presse-Agentur (dpa) reported.
The biggest investor in 2005 came from Germany: mechanical engineer, Anton
Haering, from Bubsheim in Swabian Alb invested around 500 million Euro and
created 30 jobs, according to the zone's internet website. Poland's 14 special
trading zones are of interest because of the tax relief offered. Companies
located there can deduct up to 65 per cent of the sum invested from corporation
In addition to the tax advantages, wages are low. "Our Polish staff earn
about one quarter of what we pay in Germany," Hendrik Kampann from Lingen
in the state of Lower Saxony said. From June, he will be having radiators built
in Lodz for the Polish market. The low costs are just one reason why
increasingly more medium-sized enterprises along with large companies such as
Bosch, Siemens or Electrolux are locating within the special trade zone.
"Staff are the key factor," Miro Walde from the Polish-German Chamber
of Industry and Commerce in Warsaw commented. Kampann is surprised by his new
staff's "language proficiency, flexibility and motivation." Nearly
every special trade zone has close contacts to universities and technical
colleges. "We can rely on 100,000 students from all fields annually,"
Marciej Rapkiewicz said. The fact that the zones in Lodz are connected to
motorways is even better.
"From summer onwards, we can take the E 40 straight to Lingen from Lodz,"
Kampann commented. More than 110,000 jobs have been created in the special trade
zones in the past 10 years, according to the Polish economics ministry.
Such zones are often the only glimmer of hope for many regions in Poland, which
has the EU's highest unemployment rate at 18 per cent. "The special trade
zones saved us," said Zdislaw Klonowski, a city council representative in
Mielec, Eastern Poland.
In 1995, Poland's first special trade zone was founded on the grounds of a
phased-out aircraft factory. Around 11,000 jobs have since been created there.
Rapkiewsicz is confident that investors will venture further east sooner or
later. Ukraine is also attracting investments with special trade zones. In
Poland, tax relief will expire in 10 years.
"If costs increase, we will simply have to score with even better
personnel," the head of the special trade zone in Lodz said. He is already
planning university programmes catering especially to investors' needs.
Poland's Telekom gets GSM Licence
Poland's telecoms regulator has awarded some additional GSM 1800 spectrum to
operators in the country, the website www.cellular-news.com reported on May
Three frequency reservations were subject to tender, each including 33 channels.
Each tenderer could submit one, two or three offers. The frequencies may be used
over the entire country until December 31, 2020. Out of the offers submitted by
Telekomunikacja Kolejowa (two offers), Telefonia Dialog (two offers) and PTK
Centertel (one offer) only the offers from Telekomunikacja Kolejowa obtained the
required minimum and positive evaluation of the Tender Jury. The entity selected
by means of the tender procedure was Telekomunikacja Kolejowa, which offered 255
million Polish zloty for each block of 33 channels (that is the state budget
would earn in total 510 million zloty). The minimum single tender fee for making
the frequency reservation (for 33 channels) amounted to 1.32 million zloty. The
remaining 33 channels for GSM 1800 should also be offered once more to market
players. In the above regard, a detailed concept for their use would be subject
to public consultation.