From Poland With Love – December 

 

Topic of the month

Balance of Powers Under Serious Threat (Again)

Sejm has passed a law allowing the government to fire judges opposed to judicial reforms, despite widespread opposition including protests in cities across the country. Under draft legislation, the government aims to prevent independent judges from ruling that their peers, nominated by a politicized body appointed by PiS, are not independent.

“I hope that this project will stop the justice system from blowing up,” Jarosław Kaczyński said in an interview with the Polish Press Agency (PAP). “Judges actually do not bear the consequences of even their most unlawful and harmful actions. This is a sick system and it is obvious that it cannot work well. Authorities must be responsible. If they are not, then they are evil.”

The new legislation:

  • limits the autonomy of the judicial associations, as well as the rights of their governing bodies, to an excessive extent, expanding the powers of the bodies which are appointed by and dependent on the Minister of Justice;
  • removes the issue of legality of the establishment and functioning of the bodies settling matters of citizens from judicial control in the situation in which the obligation to examine this arises not only from the applicable law, but also from two recent judgments, i.e. the judgment of the Supreme Court of December 5th, 2019, and the judgment of the Court of Justice of the European Union of November 19th, 2019;
  • unconstitutionally limits the fundamental rights and freedoms of judges as citizens of Poland, including their right to associate, their right to privacy, their right to criticize the authorities and participate in public life and their right to obtain information and freedom of expression;
  • introduces disciplinary liability for judges for their judicial activity which is in compliance with the applicable law and enables the removal of judges from service if they directly apply the provisions of the Constitution or EU law.
  • changes the method of election of the First President of the Supreme Court, making the procedure for selecting candidates for this office similar to the controversial procedure of electing the current President of the Constitutional Tribunal.

Hundreds of judges, lawyers and prosecutors in Poland already face disciplinary proceedings because of their criticism of the government.

Thousands of Poles protested in some 160 cities across the country to vent their anger. Demonstrators in front of the parliament buildings in Warsaw chanted “We will prevail” and raised banners that read: “1956: Stalinism ended. 1989: Communism ended. 2019: Why are you bringing them back?” In many smaller towns they were the biggest demonstrations in years.

The bill still faces a vote in the upper house, where the opposition has a majority. But the Senate has little real power and will be able to delay passage of the bill but not block it entirely. It will then need the signature of the president, who supports it.

Hours before the debate on the bill the Supreme Court stated that Poland could end up leaving the EU because of the new legislation. The court said the bill could contravene European law and exacerbate existing tensions between Brussels and PiS government. “Contradictions between Polish law and EU law (…) will in all likelihood lead to an intervention by the EU institutions regarding an infringement of the EU treaties, and in the longer perspective (will lead to) the need to leave the European Union,” Supreme Court said. It also said the proposed bill was “evidently” designed to allow Andrzej Duda to pick a new chief justice before a presidential election expected in May. The current chief justice – appointed by the former president Bronislaw Komorowski and very critical towards post-2015 reforms – Malgorzata Gersdorf, is due to stand down in April 2020.

The draft law was strongly criticized by associations of judges. What is more, “I would not like to live in a country where these regulations are implemented, because it will mean that we – as citizens – will not have the right to an independent court,” ombudsman Adam Bodnar said in an interview.

The deans of the faculties of law of Poland’s most important universities issued a joint position on the bill. “The consequence of the proposed changes becoming effective will not only be the increase in the current legal chaos, but primarily the deprival of citizens of the real right to an independent and impartial hearing”, the letter goes.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights warned that the legislation “risks further undermining the already heavily challenged independence of the judiciary in Poland.”

Commission spokesperson Christian Wigand told reporters that EC vice president Věra Jourová had written to Polish authorities expressing concern about the draft law. In the letter, she “strongly encouraged” Polish government to consult the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission of legal experts and “invited” state organs not to take forward the draft legislation before the necessary consultations.

Andrzej Duda, who has just started his presidential campaign before the May 2020 elections, trying to secure PiS hardcore voters’ support and full support of Jarosław Kaczyński endorsed the new piece of judiciary legislation and unprecedentedly attacked Małgorzata Gersdorf. “I feel ashamed when I see that the First President of the Supreme Court can say such things about Poland. Ashamed that someone like that was ever appointed to that office. Thankfully, this will soon change.” Andrzej Duda referred TVP to chief justice. “First President Gersdorf goes abroad and says such things about Poland that it makes me ashamed that someone who calls herself the First President of the Supreme Court can say such things about Poland, even if only within the judicial community. It is shameful. Shame because of the person who was appointed First President of the Supreme Court. Maybe these are strong words, but my feelings are clear. This is an extremely sad situation for me as president,” Duda continued. He joked on TVP Info that he does not know why “Judge Gersdorf is concerned” by the bill adopted by the Sejm, as if “someone was to bite someone else.”

“This narration must stop, the one about judges fighting to preserve their status, that they oppose changes and stand against the government – this is completely untrue,” Małgorzata Gersdorf responded in her statement issued one day after the infamous interview. “I would like clearly stress that judges stand up today because of their sense of responsibility for individual citizens, for their benefit. So that each case is judged not by particular judges, but by independent and impartial courts,” she published. Gersdorf added that the current situation wouldn’t have occurred if “judges of the previous KRS (National Council of the Judiciary) hadn’t had their tenures ended against the constitution, and new KRS members hadn’t been appointed in their place by the Sejm”.

 

European Relations

Polish Veto to Green New Deal

Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki announced after the European Council summit that Poland was the only country not to have signed up to the EU’s goal of reaching climate neutrality by 2050.

The European Green Deal currently being spearheaded by the new president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, has climate policy as one of its fundamentals. “Today is the start of a journey,” von der Leyen said at the European Commission before pitching her flagship policy to the European Parliament. “The European Green Deal is very ambitious, but it will also be very careful in assessing the impact and every single step we are taking.” “I want Europe to become the first climate-neutral continent in the world by 2050,” she said.

The Czech Republic and Hungary – which had also threatened to pull out of the climate agreement – eventually dropped their objections after winning a guarantee that nuclear energy would be recognized as a way for EU states to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The conclusions agreed by European leaders in Brussels said the Union was committed to the 2050 target but that “one member state at this stage cannot commit to implement this objective as far as it is concerned, and the European Council will come back to this in June 2020.” The conclusions also acknowledged the need to respect the rights of EU member states to decide on their own energy mix. President of the Council Charles Michel said that climate neutrality remained “the common goal” of the EU “but it is correct that for one member state at this stage it is not possible to commit to implement this objective.”

It was reported that Poland proposed 2070 for its particular goal arguing that over 80% of its electricity comes from coal. “A different starting point for Poland and most other countries should be taken into account when it comes to reducing CO2 emissions,” Morawiecki said. Polish negotiators were rather clear since June that Warsaw government would not accept the Deal without “significantly larger” funding from the EU budget to help with the costs of transition.

Angela Merkel told reporters that Poland’s exemption did not reflect a lack of cohesion in the bloc, but that it was a question of adopting a different timeline to reach common targets. “There is no division of Europe into different parts, but there is a member state that still needs a bit more time,” she said. The Élysée said that, despite Poland securing an exemption, the EU’s executive will nonetheless move ahead with Green Deal implementation.

Poland is too engaged with the EU in terms of climate and related policies to boycott fully the New Green Deal. Even more, the Deal can be a big chance for Poland, for the transition of the energy sector and economy as such. Poland is already on board for the so-called Just Transition Mechanism, a pool of up to EUR 100 billion that the EU has pledged to ease coal regions’ transition to emissions-free economy. During its time at the helm of global climate negotiations in 2018 as president of the COP24 UN climate conference, Poland made just transition a top priority. Climate also features high on the agenda of negotiating the next EU budget for the years 2021-2027. Maybe once again, the Polish government said “no” in Brussels for internal reasons but it will join the project quietly later to benefit from it.

Also in December Mateusz Morawiecki announced that the programme of subsidies for thermal insulation of buildings will be expanded to cover prefabricated concrete apartment blocks built mostly from 1960s to 1980s in which around 12 million Poles live.

“These projects are supposed to reduce bills, improve air quality and contribute to climate policy in a real way,” Morawiecki said adding that “By doing this, we want to address the problem of smog, which is important for some 44% of Poles.”

Minister of Development Jadwiga Emilewicz noted that thermal insulation will improve energy efficiency, an issue addressed in the EU’s Green New Deal, and would be financed from structural funds and the above mentioned Just Transformation Fund. In ten years the government will spend PLN 3,2 billion (EUR 752 million) on the project.

 

Hope from V4

Mayors of Budapest, Prague, Warsaw and Bratislava met in the Hungarian capital to sign a “Pact of Free Cities”, vowing to work together in defense of a pro-EU urban electorate standing against socially conservative national governments and in favor of green policies. Their choice of meeting place was significant: the campus of the Central European University founded by US-Hungarian financier George Soros. The university is at odds with the government and is in the process of being ousted from Hungary.

All four of them come from parties in opposition to their respective country’s  governments, but they denied they were seeking to form “an alternative Visegrad Four”. They intend to share best practices in transport policy, social housing, energy efficiency and solutions for smart cities.

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“Populism striving for hegemony cannot win over cities. Cities can be the bridgeheads starting from which all the current crises of democracy can be restored. This is why cities are a thorn in the eye of populism,” Budapest mayor Gergely Karacsony said. “We do not want to be defined as a force against something, but rather as a pro-European, positive alliance, which is also open to other cities,” Prague mayor Zdenek Hrib told reporters.

Transition to the green economy should be one of the main axis of cooperation between the V4 capitals and their authorities. “Currently, 92 per cent of the structural and regional funds are transferred to the governments, which leave us, cities, only with eight per cent,” Warsaw mayor Rafał Trzaskowski said. “But there are going to be new funds in the next budget period, like the 100-billion-euro climate package from [European Commission President] Ursula von der Leyen. Although the Polish government is the only one among the 27 member states which does not support the carbon neutrality goals by 2050, as the mayor of Warsaw, I would still like to set ambitious targets for the capital and be eligible for some funding from the climate package,” Trzaskowski added.

Prague mayor is 38-year-old doctor Zdenek Hrib from the Pirate Party. Bratislava mayor is 42-year-old architect Matúš Vallo from the liberal Progressive Slovakia. Warsaw mayor is 48-year-old former MEP and minister Rafał Trzaskowski who represents Civic Coalition. And Budapest mayor is 44-year-old sociologist Gergely Karácsony from the Dialogue party supported by the entire Hungarian opposition.

 

Economy

EBRD on Economy and Courts

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development’s (EBRD) chief economist Beata Javorcik  said that Central European countries that flout the rule of law risk hurting innovation and growth by losing out in the race to attract foreign investors. According to Javorcik, while the fast-growing economies of Poland and Hungary have so far shrugged off concerns that legal processes launched by the European Union over judicial reforms would stunt growth, “negative perceptions of how the judiciary sector works will translate into lower attractiveness of the country,” Javorcik told Reuters.

Foreign companies such as BMW and JPMorgan Chase have made major investments in Central Europe in recent years, but a changing global environment could pose challenges, comments the EBDR expert. “The downward trend in global FDI flows may continue due to uncertainty over trade wars, because of automation playing a bigger role which means that wages are less important as a factor, and also because the easy gains from setting up global value chains have already been exhausted,” she said.

With GDP growth of ca. 5% in 2018, Poland and Hungary are amongst fastest-growing economies in Europe. However, the EBRD forecasts growth slowing to 3,1% in 2020 in Hungary and 3,5% in Poland as the global economy loses steam.

Beata Javorcik is responsible for advising the president and other senior members of the Bank’s management team on economic issues of strategic or operational relevance to the EBRD regions. Javorcik is on leave from the University of Oxford, where she holds a Statutory Professorship in Economics (the first woman in this position) and is a Fellow of All Souls College. She is a member of the Royal Economic Society’s Executive Committee and a Director of the International Trade Programme at the Centre for Economic Policy Research in London. She is a first Pole in such high position in the EBDR.

 

The Most Expensive Flat

A 470 square-meter apartment downtown Warsaw has been sold for a record-high PLN 17 million (EUR 4 mln), the highest price paid for a flat in Poland in 2019, and one of the highest in the last 30 years. It is over PLN 36.000 (EUR 8.437) per square meter, it is four times the average price in the city. The apartment, combining two adjacent flats, is situated in a renovated tenement house on Foksal Street, where the second-most expensive property was sold for PLN 11,5 million (EUR 2.7 mln).

According to the urban.one portal the money paid for Warsaw’s most expensive apartment would be enough to buy a recently listed 16th-century castle with a 9 hectare plot of land in the Loire Valley.

 

Foreign Affairs

Who Started the WWII?

The most absorbing topic of last days of the 2010s in Poland was the conflict with Russia over the genesis of the Second World War.

World War II began on September 1st, 1939, when Nazi German troops invaded Poland. Two weeks later, the Soviet Red Army also attacked embattled Poland from the east, in what Poles refer to as a “stab in the back.” Days earlier, Germany and Russia had signed a pact with a secret protocol to carve up Poland and the Baltic states between themselves. Nevertheless, president of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin during his annual interview made statements relativizing the secret pact between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. Putin has argued that collusion between Western powers and Adolf Hitler paved the way for WWII. He pointed to Neville Chamberlain’s 1938 Munich agreement in particular, saying that war became inevitable after this point. At the same time he claimed that Poland was also partly responsible for the war with its anti-Semitic policies.

Two hours later, Putin brought the subject up again at a meeting with parliamentary leaders. State Duma speaker Vyacheslav Volodin thanked his president and demanded an apology from Poland. One day later, Russian president held his traditional end-of-year meeting with Russia’s key businesspeople. According to the Forbes, there he “surprised everyone with how deeply he was immersed in historical materials relating to the start of World War II and Poland’s positions”.

Next, Vladimir Putin during a summit of heads of former Soviet states in St Petersburg on December 20th gave the assembled leaders an hour-long history lecture, drawing on a sheaf of archival documents he had brought with him. Putin has also raised the issue at a number of other meetings in late December, including a gathering of top army generals in which he called Poland’s ambassador to Nazi Germany Józef Lipski “a scumbag and an anti-Semitic pig”. The wartime ambassador reportedly promised Hitler a memorial in Warsaw for the deportation of Jews.

Polish government did not respond immediately but when it became obvious that Putin’s original statement was a piece of a broader plan, Mateusz Morawiecki had to do something. He issued a four-page statement accusing the Russian president of “repeated lies” over the history of the conflict. Earlier, the foreign ministry in Warsaw stated that Putin’s words resembled “propaganda from the time of Stalinist totalitarianism”. Polish PM said Moscow was playing with history in order to distract from international pressure over issues such as sanctions and a doping ban for Russian athletes.

The Polish foreign ministry also summoned the Russian ambassador to complain to him about Putin’s comments.

Former president of the European Council Donald Tusk said Poles should unite to rebut Putin’s claims. And it looks like the opposition in Poland will support the government in its efforts to protect the true version of the history.

When the conflict escalated Western allies supported Warsaw. “Dear President Putin, Hitler and Stalin colluded to start WWII. That is a fact. Poland was a victim of this horrible conflict,” US Ambassador Georgette Mosbacher had said earlier on Twitter in English and Polish. German Green party MP Manuel Sarrazin, who serves as party spokesperson for Eastern Europe in the Bundestag, said that Putin wants to “hide the Soviet co-responsibility for Nazi Germany’s invasion of Poland (…) This is an active history policy that obviously serves the purpose of legitimizing the current Russian neo-imperial policy in Central Europe.” German ambassador to Poland Rolf Nikel wrote on Twitter: “The Soviet Union participated jointly with Germany in the brutal division of Poland.” More ambassadors joined, including France and Israel.

A question about reasons of Putin offensive against Poland are not very clear. However, a few answers are given by experts. First, Moscow is furious about a recent European Parliament’s resolution that said the Soviet Union bore responsibility for starting the WWII, alongside Nazi Germany. That, in turn, came after a concerted effort from the Russian foreign ministry earlier this year to rehabilitate the 1939 Nazi-Soviet non-aggression pact, which 10 years ago Putin had called “pointless, harmful and dangerous”. This year, Russia’s culture minister called it “a triumph of Soviet diplomacy”.

What is more, 2020 will be a year of important anniversaries in Polish-Russian relations, namely the 10th anniversary of the Smoleńsk plane crash where Poland’s president Lech Kaczyński died together with over 90 other people, 100th anniversary of the battle of Warsaw when Polish army stopped Soviet march on Western Europe, and 75th anniversary of the end of the WWII. Russian diplomacy wanted to prepare the discussion over these anniversaries labeling Poland as a collaborator of the Nazis and not always a victim of Soviet/Russian aggression.

It is also said that Moscow wants to influence the May presidential elections weakening Poland’s position with its allies.

 

Culture

Toss A Coin to the Witcher

Finally. Millions of fans of the Witcher in Poland and around the world could watch the newest Netflix series based on fantasy novels by Andrzej Sapkowski. The Witcher follows the story of Geralt of Rivia, a solitary monster hunter, who struggles to find his place in a world where people often prove more wicked than monsters and beasts. But when destiny hurtles him toward a powerful sorceress Yennefer (Anya Colatra) who comes from humble and somewhat horrible beginnings to find both beauty, and a young princess Ciri (Freya Allan), the granddaughter of Queen Calanthe of Cintra (Jodhi May), with a special gift, the three must learn to navigate independently the increasingly volatile Continent.

The series was created by Lauren Schmidt Hissrich. The eight-episode first season was released in its entirety on December 20th, 2019. A second season was announced on November 13th, 2019, which is planned to be released in 2021.

The first season is based on The Last Wish and Sword of Destiny, a collection of short stories that precede the main Witcher saga. The first season explores formative events that shaped the three lead characters, prior to their first encounters with each other.

Before becoming a Netflix series the saga was adapted into a now famous series of video games made by CD Projekt. The video game has clearly influenced the series, especially the appearance of the main character. It is interesting to mention that Andrzej Sapkowski has had a notoriously prickly relationship with CD Project and the games. The author originally sold the rights to make a Witcher game for practically nothing, as he did not expect it would be a success. After the  games have sold 40 million copies he accused the games of actually lowering his book sales. Recently he has struck a new deal with CD Project for future Witcher games which will be very beneficiary for him.

Sapkowski appreciates the Lauren S. Hissirch Netflix adaptation of his books, with specific praise reserved for Henry Cavill who plays the main character. “I was more than happy with Henry Cavill’s appearance as the Witcher,” Sapkowski told People. “He’s a real professional. Just as Viggo Mortensen gave his face to Aragorn [in The Lord of the Rings], so Henry gave his to Geralt — and it shall be forever so.”

The Witcher is shaping up to be a potential megahit for Netflix. It’s one of the highest rated shows for the service on IMDb among fans, beating out the likes of Stranger Things, Peaky Blinders, Black Mirror, The Crown, or Ozark, but critics are less favorable. It has a “rotten” 56% critic score on Rotten Tomatoes but a 93% audience score. In Poland commenting on the show became a national sport. Newspapers, magazines and blogs are full of articles about it, with all opinions from total admiration to bitter hatred.

After the premiere of the show, just before Christmas, books by Andrzej Sapokowski became bestsellers on Amazon and Google. After Christmas Sapkowski became the top writer on Amazon and many of the Witcher books are sold out…

 

Watch the official trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ndl1W4ltcmg

 

The Tender Narrator

However, Andrzej Sapkowski is not the literary star of the year in Poland. Nobel Prize winner Olga Tokarczuk keeps on putting Poland in the spotlight for her writing talent and fascinating personality.

Tokarczuk arrived to Stockholm to receive her prize and her every step there was commented by Polish media and influencers. Her long black, velvet dress became a subject of analysis of fashion experts and bloggers, and inspired a new LEGO figurine. Her picture with Swedish minister of culture, who also wears dread locks, became a meme. Nevertheless, what really mattered was her lecture entitled “The Tender Narrator” that was encouraging and kept many Polish people up, especially those protesting against the court reform.

Tokarczuk’s speech was forthright. Her subject was the enduring importance and power of story-telling in efforts to establish historical truth. “A thing that happens and is not told ceases to exist and perishes. This is a fact well known to not only historians, but also (and perhaps above all) to every stripe of politician and tyrant. He who has and weaves the story is in charge,” she said, going on to refer to the new difficulties literature and history face in the age of online international communications. “The internet, completely and unreflectively subject to market processes and dedicated to monopolists, controls gigantic quantities of data used not at all pansophically, for the broader access to information, but on the contrary, serving above all to program the behavior of users, as we learned after the Cambridge Analytica affair,” she added. “Instead of hearing the harmony of the world, we have heard a cacophony of sounds, an unbearable static in which we try, in despair, to pick up on some quieter melody, even the weakest beat.”

Last weeks have been very successful for Tokarczuk, also commercially. The author who sold ca. 1 million copies of her books before receiving the Nobel Prize has reached 2 million only a few weeks after the ceremony in Stockholm.

Olga Tokarczuk donated her Nobel Prize replica to the 28th Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity (WOŚP), Poland’s biggest charity event. It was hand-made with silver and covered in gold and has already gone to the auction. The grand finale will take place on the 12th of January.

Additionally, Tokarczuk has established a foundation to support and promote Polish and global art and culture, human rights and civil freedoms and support for environmental activities. During a press conference in Wrocław, she announced that work is ongoing on the statute of the Olga Tokarczuk Foundation. Having declared a donation of PLN 350.000 (ca. EUR 81.000), the writer said she had appointed director Agnieszka Holland to the foundation’s council as well as the director of the Wrocław Literature House, writer Ireneusz Grin. “The foundation will undertake the counteraction of discrimination, women’s rights and support for the development of the Lower Silesian region,” Tokarczuk said, adding that the foundation will conduct cultural and artistic activities including organising stipendiums and artistic residencies.

 

Full lecture: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VvZAXL28K2E&feature=youtu.be

 

Corpus Christi Shortlisted for Oscar

“Corpus Christi” by Jan Komasa is shortlisted for an Oscar 2020 in the International Feature Film category.

“Corpus Christi” is the story of a 20-year-old Daniel who experiences a spiritual transformation while living in a Youth Detention Center. He wants to become a priest but this is impossible because of his criminal record. When he is sent to work at a carpenter’s workshop in a small town, on arrival he dresses up as a priest and accidentally takes over the local parish. The arrival of the young, charismatic preacher is an opportunity for the local community to begin the healing process after a tragedy that happened there.

 

Watch the official trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cFFvje2A2vE

 

Innovations

Cosmose Raises USD 12 Million

Polish-Chinese tech-start-up Cosmose, which has software tracking the exact location of a massive 1,1 billion people around the world (850 million of which are in China), has closed a USD 12 million seed funding round to expand its operations into Japan and open a new office in Europe.

It is based in Warsaw and Shanghai and boasts leading luxury brands as clients such as LVMH, Richemont, Kering, Estée Lauder and L’Oréal to help them to understand the customer behaviour in their shops. It is sometimes labeled as a Polish  Foursquare. The company is able to tap into people’s location data via their smartphone, something that people opt into by downloading one of the cooperating apps. And there is over 400.000 of them only in Asia! And once Cosmose has access to a smartphone it can track it accurately within a 1,6 m range. The customer does not need to connect to Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, or even open the app for the tracking to begin.

The data collected helps the companies with target marketing with tools like Google Ads, Facebook or Chinese ones like Weibo.

The startup has a “complex system of encrypting and segmenting the data” so that it is fully compliant with General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), according to Miron Mironiuk, Cosmose’s chief executive and founder.

 

Germany and Poland

Angela Merkel in Auschwitz

On December 6th, chancellor Angela Merkel voiced a feeling of “deep shame” during her first-ever visit to the former Nazi German death camp of Auschwitz. Merkel follows in the footsteps of previous German chancellors Helmut Schmidt, who came in 1977, and Helmut Kohl, who visited in 1989 and 1995. Her trip, which comes ahead of the 75th anniversary of the camp’s liberation by Soviet troops on January 27th, is being seen as an important political message.

Merkel began her visit by walking under the Nazi slogan “Arbeit macht frei” (Work will set you free) that still hangs over the gates of the camp.

She noted that her visit comes amid rising anti-Semitism and historical revisionism and vowed that her government would not tolerate anti-Semitism. She said Germany remains committed to remembering the crimes that it committed against Jews, Poles, Roma and Sinti, homosexuals and others. “Nothing can bring back the people who were murdered here. Nothing can reverse the unprecedented crimes committed here. These crimes are and will remain part of German history and this history must be told over and over again,” she said. She called such responsibility a key element in German national identity today.

Touring the memorial, Merkel held a moment of silence at the so-called Black Wall in the main camp at Auschwitz, where thousands of prisoners were shot dead.

The chancellor also visited the Birkenau extermination camp where she laid a wreath of flowers. Prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki, president Andrzej Duda and a survivor of the camp, 87-year-old Bogdan Stanisław Bartnikowski accompanied her during the visit. Josef Schuster, head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, and Ronald Lauder, head of the World Jewish Congress, also took part in the visit.

Merkel also officially announced Germany would provide additional EUR 60 million in funding for the conservation of the memorial, saying it will be forever the responsibility of the German nation to ensure the victims are remembered. “Remembering the crimes … is a responsibility which never ends. It belongs inseparably to our country. To be aware of this responsibility is part of our national identity,” she said.

 

Watch a video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pK7H2_WzybQ

 

LOT questions LH Branding

Poland’s national airline PLL LOT is threatening German competitor Lufthansa with legal action over its new logo. Although both airlines have long used the image of a crane in flight to trademark their planes, a rebranding exercise undertaken by the German carrier last year, in which its characteristic logotype was refreshed, has caused consternation in its Polish Star Alliance partner due to a change in color.

The new logotype on the tail fin of Lufthansa planes bears the traditional crane but on a navy-blue background. LOT is taking issue with Lufthansa’s new look, claiming that new branding creates a “likelihood of confusion,” offers Lufthansa “an unfair advantage,” and threatens the distinctiveness of LOT Polish’s brand.

A LOT spokesman said: “LOT has announced its opposition to the registration of the logotype – the crane icon on the navy blue background of the planes’ tail fin. Due to the ongoing procedure we are not commenting on the matter.” Lufthansa had no problem getting the new design registered as a figurative mark in Germany, but as they have tried to register it in the rest of Europe, a law firm acting on behalf of LOT has tried to fight the protection of the dark blue tail with a white crane inside a circle.

The crane symbol that characterizes the Polish carrier emerged in 1931 and was designed by Tadeusz Lucjan Gronowski, a graduate of the National School of Fine Arts in Paris. However, Lufthansa was first to use the crane as its logo, having adopted it in 1918.

 

Polls & Trends

 

Party Support

Ibris for Rzeczpospolita, 24.12

 

PiS                                       39,8%

Civic Coalition                  26,8%

Left                                     9,9%

PSL                                       7,5%

Konfederacja                    6,1%

 

Christmas Sales

Santander Consumer Bank research, December 2019

 

35% of Poles will go on Christmas sales.

What they buy?

  • clothing and footwear 47,5%
  • electronics 28,3%
  • household appliances 22%
  • laptops and computers 13,2%
  • home furnishings 12,9%

 

For almost 40% of customers the brand will be the deciding factor that will affect the final purchase. Over 35% will be guided by the price, while nearly 30% only by visual reasons.

 

 

About the author ____________________________________________

Miłosz Hodun

Expert at the Nowoczesna party. PhD, formerly a part-time teacher at Reykjavik University School of Law. His main areas of interest are comparative constitutional law and federalism. Board member of Projekt: Polska Association. Until September 2015, he worked as an expert within “Presidential Experts’ Programme” at the Chancellery of the President of the Republic of Poland. He is member of the Board of Directors of the European Liberal Forum.