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Poland News Update For December

Compiled by Robert Strybel,
Warsaw Correspondent

(Updated December 2023)

Polish PM designate struggles to win Sejm support, opposition enraged President Andrzej Duda has ignored the protests of Tusk’s enraged three-party coalition which accused him of deliberately delaying the start of their rule by entrusting he formation of a new government to outgoing Law and Justice (L&J) PM Morawiecki. But Duda only took advantage of his constitutional prerogatives.  The cabinet proposed by Morawiecki is 50% female and includes programs backed by the different opposition groups. He has also said he would step aside if the conservative Polish People’s Party (PSL) chief agreed to become its prime minister. But the Sejm’s anti-L&J majority is more than likely to give him an overwhelming no-confidence vote and set about taking over the reins of government.

Two governments grapple in Polish political limbo
The unprecedented incumbent victory in October’s general election, coupled with na opposition majority has produced an outgoing government struggling to preserve its achievements and opposition challengers hoping it ceases to exist. Until it got sworn in, the presumed new opposition government had no access to official government files and economic data. Meanwhile, The presumably outgoing L&J camp had continued appointing officials, placing orders, signing long-term contracts and installing new hi-tech studios at contested Polish TV (public television), at this writing still controlled by L&J.

Major shift in Polish public’s political trust — survey
The Sejm’s new Marshal, Szymon Hołownia, is now Poland’s must trusted political figure, according to a survey conducted by pollster Ibris. In second Place was Warsaw’s hard-left pro-LGBT Mayor, followed by presumed PM Donald Tusk. For the first time in eight years, Poland’s L&J-linked President Andrzej Duda was not in the top three and dropped into fifth place. The least trusted were right-wingers: tough Prosecutor General Zbigniew Ziobro, L&J chief Jarosław Kaczyński and nationalist leader Krzysztof Bosak.

Nine members of Tusk-led coalition vote for EU treaty change
Donald Tusk, who pledged that his political associates would not support treaty change in the European Parliament, only partially kept his word. He said the ban included “those with whom I work” which would encompass members of his fledgling tripartite government coalition. Nine of them, however, voted to continue talks on treaty changes which would strip Poland and other countries of their veto power and transfer rights in over 60 key areas to Brussels. Had they voted against it, the entire issue would have been shelved German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who hopes to further expand his country’s already excessive EU leadership role, is in a rush for fear that the next election might bring in a more conservative, EU-wary government.

Nine ex-commies and other leftists voted against Poland in EP
The nine MEPs who ignored Tusk’s declared opposition to treaty-change debate, included three ex-communist former Polish prime minsters – Leszek Miller, Włodzimierz Cimoszewicz and Marek Belka. Other yes-men included Robert Biedroń, the first declared homosexual in the Polish Sejm as well as hard-left Sylvia Spurek who strongly supports veganism, gender ideology, climate concerns and admitting illegal migrants into Poland. Also voting “yes” was Fürstin (princess) Róża von Thun und Hohenstein, a former member of Tusk’s Civic Platform who defected to the Poland 2050 splinter party, She acquired her “princess” title by marrying a German aristocrat.

New would-be defense minister now supports Poland’s military build-up Władysław Kosiniak-Kamysz, tipped to be Poland’s next defense minister, recently said he does not favor terminating the country’s militarization in view of the international situation. He also admitted he was wrong in opposing the creation  of the L&J-backed 30,000-strong, national-guard-like Territorial Army which has proved its worth patrolling Poland’s borders, in flood relief and other emergencies.  The eternally L&J-bashing opposition had ridiculed the formation as “L&J playing soldiers” and “Kaczyński’s private army.”  It is  a rare occurrence indeed for a Polish politician to publicly admit he was wrong.

Will Tusk switch off public TV’s electrical current?
A major bone of contention between the outgoing L&J camp and the incoming Tusk-led three-party coalition is L&J-controlled TVP, the country’s public television, which Tusk hopes to take over.  “We will use tough legal methods. They will be in accordance with the law as we understand it,” Tusk told a press conference recently. Tomasz Głogowski one of Tusk’s Civic Platform MPs, suggested pulling the plug on TVP. Asked by a reporter who would do that he replied: “The government or someone ordered to do so by the prime minister.” But some farm activists have threatened to block roads with their tractors in defense of TVP. T

Wałęsa not likely to go on trial under Tusk administration
Lech Wałęsa, Solidarity trade-union founder and former Polish president, has been accused of falsely denying that back in the 1970s he had been a paid informer of the communist secret police. Graphologists examining a large stash of payment receipts, found in the home of deceased interior minister Czesław Kiszczak, had definitely been signed by Wałęsa who has persistently called them forgeries. Giving false testimony in Poland carries a maximum three-year prison term, but the presumed new administration of Donald Tusk is expected to exonerate Poland’s only Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

Pentagon chief reaffirms US support for Ukraine in Poland
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin visited Poland recently to reaffirm America’s continued support for the Ukrainian nation’s patriotic resistance to Putin’s terrorist invasion.  At a US Army camp near the SE city of Rzeszów, he briefed Polish Defense Minister Mariusz on his visit to Kyiv a day earlier. The talks took place amid reports of declining public support for US military aid to Ukraine, especially in the Republican camp.

Pro-LGBT children’s rights spokeswoman replaces traditional predecessor
Not surprisingly, the Tusk-led three-party coalition, set to take power, has replaced Mikołaj Pawlak with Monika Horna-Cieślak as Poland’s new children’s right spokesperson (ombudsman) Pawlak, whose five-year term in office ended in December, was an advocate of traditional family values which most Poles still endorse. His successor has been described as a LGBT-friendly “progressive” and a staunch opponent of even the mildest form of corporal punishment. It is still unclear whether she will recommend teaching kindergartners and first-graders how to masturbate – a key point of the genderist agenda.

Poland commands NATO’s annual cyber-security exercise
Poland was in command of NATO’s latest five-day cyber-security drills, code-named Cyber Coalition 23. The exercise was part of the alliance’s expanded strategy, launched at NATO’s 2016 Warsaw summit, which recognized international cyber-security as a military operational domain alongside land, sea, and air, Poland’s PAP news agency reported.

Anti-L&J Sejm fires members of “Russian-infiltration” commission
The newly elected Sejm (lower house) has voted to fire eight members of an investigative commission set up by the ruling Law and Justice (L&J) party last spring. Its purpose was to document Russian interference in Poland’s internal affairs. The inquiry had focused on the previous Civic Platform and Polish People’s Party government, especially its PM Donald Tusk and his foreign minister Radosław Sikorski. The commission contended that in their attempt to “warm up” relations with Moscow, Tusk and associates had succumbed to Putin’s pressure to sabotage the US anti-missile shield, based in Poland and Czechia, as well as downsize Poland’s army and dissolve some 600 military units, particularly in eastern Poland, closer to the former Soviet border.

Tusk-led coalition takes revenge on Polish energy giant
Poland’s state-owned energy giant Orlen, the pride and joy of the outgoing Law and Justice (L&J) party, has long been a thorn in the side of the Tusk-led opposition. It has worked overtime to discredit its successful CEO, Daniel Obajtek, who has turned it into the biggest such company in Central-East Europe. It operates four oil refineries, 2,900 filling stations in four different countries, provides natural gas, electricity, heat and even owns a chain of newspapers. The new coalition has agreed to keep in force a consumer price freeze on energy initiated by its L&J predecessors by forcing Orlen to foot the bill. As a result, the company lost nearly 6 billion złotys (about $1.5 bn) in a single day of trading on the Warsaw Stock Exchange.

“Cleaning up” may open a Pandora’s box of judicial chaos
The declared policy of Poland’s new anti-L&J parliamentary majority is to “clean up the mess” left by Jarosław Kaczyński’s conservatives. That may be easier said than done, especially in the field of judicial reforms. Tusk’s Platformers did not acknowledge the validity of the judge-appointing National Judicial Council, claiming 15 of its members were pseudo-judges illegally installed by L&J. What about the some 3,500 judges it had appointed. The legality of the Constitutional Tribunal under L&J was also questioned, but what about the 80 rulings it had issued?  Since the parliamentary majority fears that the president would veto legislation designed to undo the reforms, someone suggested passing a resolution to that effect. But a mere resolution is powerless to change an existing law. Some anti-L&J radicals have even suggested firing all the “fake” judges and annulling their verdicts. “If I got divorced under L&J, would I now be re-married to the spouse I had legally split up with?” one middle-aged Pole quipped.

Anti-L&J Sejm fires members of Russian-influence commission
The newly elected Sejm (lower house) has voted to fire eight members of an investigative commission set up by the ruling Law and Justice (L&J) party to document Russian interference in Poland’s internal affairs. The inquiry had focused on the previous Civic Platform and Polish People’s Party government, especially its PM Donald Tusk and his associates. The commission contended that in their attempt to “warm up” relations with Moscow, Tusk and associates had succumbed to Putin’s pressure to sabotage the US anti-missile shield, based in Poland and Czechia, as well as downsize Poland’s army and dissolve some 600 military units, particularly in eastern Poland.

Polish couple wins UN award for housing 14,000 Ukrainian refugees
Lena and Władysław Grochowski have received the 2023 United Nations Nansen Refugee Award for providing free shelter for over 14,000 war refugees fleeing Putin’s aggression against Ukraine. They are the first Polish winners of the award, which “honors individuals, groups and organizations who go above and beyond the call of duty to protect refugees, as well as internally displaced and stateless people.” The Grochowskis own a hotel chain and real-estate company and began putting up refugees soon after Russia launched its full-scale aggression in February 2022.

Police detain sender of death threats to Donald Tusk — Rzeczpospolita Polish police have succeeded in tracking down a man who had sent a threatening e-mail to Donald Tusk. The 43-year-old, named only as Michał B. under Polish privacy-protection laws, sent an email addressed to the leader of Civic Platform (PO), the largest opposition party, saying that he would kill the politician. After police established the man’s identity and address, he was detained and charged with making criminal threats. During the investigation, Michał B. admitted to sending the email and confirmed its contents, the usually reliable (non-tabloid)daily Rzeczpospolita reported. If convicted, he could spend up to two years behind bars.

Two policemen dead after squad-car shooing in Wrocław
Two policemen in the SW city of Wrocław died in intensive care after sustaining head wounds from a suspected fraudster armed with a black-powder replica handgun. Named under Poland’s identity-protection laws only as Maksymilian F., the 44-year-old gunman was being driven to a police station and fled on foot after firing the shots. He was captured several hours later. Days earlier, he had posted on social media a video of himself threatening: “If police ever try to take me, I’ll be the first to shoot.” If convicted, he could face life in prison.

Warsaw hosts international “Rebuild Ukraine” conference
Poland’s capital was recently the scene of international conference devoted to the post-war reconstruction o war-torn Ukraine. That will be a daunting and costly task considering that each day Putin is adding to the heap of rubble that once formed part of Ukraine’s critical, energy, industrial, commercial and residential infrastructure as well as its medical, educational and cultural assets. The two-day event attracted some 540 experts, entrepreneurs and activists representing construction firms, banks and humanitarian organizations from over 30 countries to Warsaw’s Expo XXI arena.

Kraków’s 2023 Christmas market judged the best in Europe
Kraków’s Christmas market has been named Europe’s best in a new ranking. Two other Polish cities, Wrocław and Poznań, also appeared in the top ten, making Poland the only country with three top entries. Estonia’s capital, Tallinn, was close behind Kraków in second place while Budapest, Hungary came third, ahead of Austria’s capital, Vienna. Christmas markets, known in Polish as “Jarmark Bożonarodzeniowy” and “Kiermasz Świąteczny” are assemblies of mainly outdoor booths offering Christmas-themed gifts, decorations and treats. On cold. snowy days, a glass of “grzaniec” (hot mulled wine) and grilled sausages really hit the spot.

Krakow, Valencia, Spain share top spot as UK’s favorite city
In an annual consumers’ survey, 31 popular cities were rated on such criteria as food and drink, accommodation, cultural sights and attractions, shopping, ease of getting around, lack of crowds and value for money. Poland’s old royal capital (until 1596) shared the top of the chart with scores of 92%. Commenting on the winners, the Daily Mail newspaper said: “Kraków has proven enduringly popular in the survey, marking its fourth time in the top spot. Visitors to Kraków awarded it a full five stars for food and drink as well as cultural sites and attractions

Three bison killed by army trucks in NE Poland
Three bison have been fatally run over by army trucks in NE Poland’s Podlasie region, bordering Lithuania and Belarus. In the latest incident, two of seven bison in the road were struck and died near Poland’s fabled Białowieża virgin forest. A month earlier, a sole bison was fatally run over in the area. A protected species, the bison (żubr in Polish) is an iconic symbol of Polish nature. Poland played a key role in restoring the species, the last specimen of which was killed by a poacher in 1923. By breeding animals obtained from foreign zoos, there were 16 bison in Białowieża in 1939, and all survived World War II. At present, Poland boasts more than 2,300 wild, forest-dwelling bovines.

Goats visit library, church and bus stop in small Polish town
A pair of white goats have caused a sensation in a small Polish town, where they were spotted trying to enter the library before heading to a church and finally ended up standing patiently at a bus stop. They were then picked up by local police, who found that their owner was too drunk to be allowed to take back the strays. The goats’ big day out took place in Rozprza, a town of 1,700 in central Poland’s Łódź voivodeship. It came to national attention after images of their adventures went viral on social media.

Poles, Czechs clash over public nudity in swimming-pool lockeroom
A Polish town near the border with the Czech Republic has witnessed a cross-cultural clash between the two nations over public nudity after a local swimming pool asked Czech visitors not to fully undress in front of others in its locker-rooms. The controversy erupted in the SW town of Prudnik (pop. 21,000), located about 6 kilometers (4 miles) from the Czech border. It is frequented by many Czechs, because the nearest public swimming pool on their side of the border is 30 km (18 miles) away. The pool’s manager has posted a sign in Czech which says: “Visitors are kindly requested to change in the curtained-off cubicles, not in front of their lockers.”