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Sep 22, 2023

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Latest Polish News Byte

Compiled by Robert Strybel
Warsaw Correspondent

Ex-PM Donald Tusk will not run for president
Regarded until now as a prime contender to unseat Polish President Andrzej Duda, former Polish prime minister Donald Tusk has announced he would not run in May’s presidential election. He told reporters the opposition needed a candidate “free of the kind of baggage of difficult and unpopular decisions” he had to take as head of Poland’s government between 2007 and 2014. A protégé of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Tusk is now winding down his second term as head fo the European Council. A recent survey showed that incumbent Duda would win 48.2 percent of the vote against 24.6 percent for Tusk. Since no candidate won over 50 percent, the top two contenders would face off in a second round in which Duda could count on 54.5 percent support and Tusk – 39.6 percent.

Poland*s population expected to drop by eight million
Poland’s current population of 38.4 million is expected to drop to 30.3 million by 2080, the country’s Finance Ministry said in a recent forecast. With a loss of 8.1 million inhabitants, Poland will become demographically 21 percent smaller. The decline is expected to take place in stages with the population dropping to 33.0 million by 2060. The ministry called the forecast alarming, noting that it would adversely affect people’s future Social Security benefits. Poland’s current government maintains a generous benefit program providing each child with a monthly allowance of $130. till age 18, but it has improved the birth rate only slightly. The accuracy of a 60-year projection is rather doubtful, since it cannot predict  mass immigration, armed conflict, ecological disasters or other unforeseen developments impacting the nation’s demographics.

Polish troops join join UN peacekeepers in Lebanon
Following a decade-long break, Polish troops are joining a United Nations peacekeeping mission in war-torn Lebanon.  The 250-member Polish military contingent is part of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) and sports the UN’s blue helmets. Before being shipped to the Middle East, Polish combat vehicles were painted white to signify the UN’s political neutrality. It is hoped that the peacekeepers can prevent hostilities between Israel and the Lebanon-based militant Muslim organization Hezbollah from escalating into a major conflict.  From 1992, Poland had been involved in UN peacekeeping efforts in Lebanon, Syria and Chad but withdrew a decade later to take part in NATO and EU- backed missions.

Poland counteracts Russia’s hybrid warfare
A Russian diplomat based in Poznań was expelled from Poland earlier this year for “activities incompatible with his diplomatic status,” but the expulsion was reported just recently. Super-secret counter-espionage units have their strategic reasons for issuing, withholding or delaying information. On suspicion of involvement in  hybrid warfare, three other Russian nationals have been declared personae non gratae by Poland and the European Union. A Pole, Piotr Ś., suspected of spying for Russia has been arrested could face up to 15 years in prison. Polish counter-intelligence has its hands full neutralizing Russia’s hybrid warfare. which blends traditonal espionage with attempts to hack or short-circuit foreign’ data-storage systems. It also, uses highly-paid troll teams to spread fake news and influence other countries’ political scene including elections.

Pole Witold Bańka heads up World Anti-Doping Association
Polish Sports and Tourism Minister  Witold Bańka has been confirmed as the new head of the World Anti-.Doping Association (WADA).
The announcement was made on the last day of the 2019 World Conference on Doping in Sport, held in the southern Polish city of Katowice. Bańka was picked to be the new head of the international drug-fighting body in May this year at a meeting of government representatives in Montreal, Canada. He has demonstrated his commitment to cleansing the Polish sports scene of illegal performance-enhancing drugs.

Poland should lead in cybersecurity – PM Morawiecki
Poland wants to become a leader in cybersecurity in the Višehrad Group within the Three Seas Initiative, and, by strengthening our region’s potential, at the European Union level as well,” That was Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki’s message to the European Cybersec Forum, Held in the Polish industrial city of Katowice, it was Central-East Europe’s biggest event of its kind. Morawiecki also stressed that one of his government’s priorities was the security of the digital market which is crucial for “for state security as well as social and economic development.” The Višehrad Group is an alliance of Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic, while the Three Seas Initiative is an association of 12 Central-East and Southern European states. Morawiecki is known for his support for high-tech projects.

Ukrainian family gets fast-track citizenship for heroic rescue
Ukrainian national Andriy Syrowacki together with his wife and two children were granted fast-track Polish citizenship recently in recognition of his heroic act. Last June, Syrowacki witnessed a car pile-up on a Polish highway in which six people were killed and several others injured. Ukrainian immediately sprang into action and managed to pull a woman and her two children from a flaming car that could have exploded at any moment. The Syrowackis had been living in Poland since 2016, and last July applied for Polish citizenship. Processing the application could have taken nearly a year longer, but Polish President Andrzej Duda agreed to speed up the process. Syrowacki is a truck driver, and his wife works as a beautician in the West Poland town of Strzelce Krajeńskie.

E-cloud deal may give US access to Polish trade secrets
An American back-door regulation going over the heads of foreign governments has caused fears in Poland that the US could gain access to sensitive Polish business secrets. In September, when Poland signed an e-cloud deal with Google, the Polish side was assured that its valuable data would be safe. But last year the American side enacted regulations allowing it to access classified information stored in other countries without a bilateral agreement with them. According to the regulations, if the FBI states that America’s national security is threatened, Washington could gain access to  the sensitive business data of Polish companies.. That applies to the e-cloud of not only Google but also Amazon and Microsoft.

Tiger rescue inspires needy-animal shelter
The zoological park in the west-central city of Poznań hopes to create an animal  shelter following its role in treating seven sick and neglected tigers. Ten Bengal tigers were sent by truck from Italy to the Russian Republic of Dagestan but were blocked at the Polish-Belarusian border for lack of proper paperwork. One of the animals died of negligent abuse, while the remaining nine survived in cramped, excrement-filled cages stacked in a truck. They arrived exhausted, dehydrated and emaciated after a week-long trip across Europe. The Poznań Zoo volunteered to nurse seven of the tigers back to health before sending them to an animal shelter in Spain. Two tigers were treated in a small private zoo on Poland’s Baltic coast. The two Italian truck drivers who doubled as animal handlers have been charged with animal abuse.

Poland to expand wind farms on Baltic coast
Polish government officials and representatives of the US  conglomerate General Electric have signed a deal boosting investment in Poland’s renewable-energy sector. Attending the signing ceremony was, US Ambassador to Poland Georgette Mosbacher who said “the agreement would strengthen Poland’s energy security through diversification of energy sources. “I look forward to this partnership between Poland and General Electric being a great success!” Poland’s windy Baltic coast has been designated as the site of a major wind-farm project.

800 US cinemas show movie about Polish saint
Michał Kondrat, who had directed a docudrama about Poland’s Saint Faustina, was pleasantly surprised by its popularity in the US where religious themes are rarely big box-office attractions. It grossed over $1 million in one day after being shown in 800 American cinemas. The film revealed hitherto unknown facts about the visions and private letters of  Catholic nun and mystic Sister Faustina, known as “the Apostle of Divine Mercy.” Kondrat told reporters he had not expected such a success. “All of the 45 cinemas in Chicago were sold out. It was no different in Florida and Texas,”  Born Helena Kowalska, the saintly nun of tuberculosis in 1938 at the age of 33 and was canonized by Pope John Paul II in 2000.

Patostream threat comes to Poland – Polish TV warns
A fairly new e-innovation known as patostream has come to Poland, and young children, and adolescents are among its most  avid viewers. These are home-made reality-show-style films highlighting every imaginable drastic situation, wanton violence, vulgarity and obscenity which are posted on YouTube. TVP, Polish public television recently broadcast snippets of patostream videos showing a bloodied teenager lying on the ground and being kicked in the head, teeth and everywhere else by a group of peers. Some omen rings a doorbell and shouts obscenities whens someone comes to the door. A stranger gets bonked unconscious with a bottle, little girls are asked to undress, an unconscious drunk wallows in his own urine and excrement and a drunken grandma gets her face pushed it. Several patostreamers are already being investigated on suspicion of promoting violence.

Poland leads EU in first-time residence permits
Last year, EU countries issued total of 3.2 million first-time residence permits to non-EU citizens, and Poland was the 28-member bloc’s leader. According to the EU’s statistical agency Eurostat, Poladn had issued 635,000 work-related residence permits, outdistancing 2.2-times more populous Germany (544,000), Britain (451,000)., France (265,000), Spain (260,000) and Italy (239,000). Some 100,000 work permits were issued in Poland in the first four months of this year, up 46 percent overt the same period of 2018. The most were granted to Ukrainians, but over 35,000 went to Asians from such countries as Nepal, India and Bangladesh. To work in a European Union country, a non-EU citizens must obtain both a residence and work permit.

Poland’s Clean Air program gaining in popularity
Heavily coal-reliant Poland cannot immediately shut down its mining industry for lack of alternative fuels and fear of an unemployment crisis. but it has found other ways to curb air pollution. Last year, the country launched a nearly $28 billion program to help improve air quality, and the campaign is becoming increasingly popular. “A few weeks ago we were getting between 1,000 and 2,000 applications a week and now it ranges from 2,000 to 3,000. applications We should have over 100,000 applications filed by the end of the year.” Applicants are entitled to state subsidies to upgrade their  heating systems and home insulation as well as install environmentally friendly solar panels

Poland’s living crèches highlight true meaning of Christmas
Live Nativity scenes featuring volunteer actors and real barnyard animals have been growing in popularity across Poland in recent decades. Usually set up on parish grounds, they combine the miraculous story of Jesus’ birth with the attraction of a petting zoo. Such living tableaux are eagerly visited by families with children during the holiday season starting on Christmas Eve. Beyond the donkey, sheep and cattle recorded in the Bible, they sometimes include a llama, Shetland pony, guinea pigs and poultry, The most impressive presentation is found at Częstochowa’s Marian Shrine of the Black Madonna. The living crèche helps offset the commercial propaganda of shopping malls that work overtime to reduce Christmas to reindeer, elves, Santas, presents and “shop till you drop.”