Topic of the month
Poland and Hungary vetoed the EU’s historic EUR 1,8 trillion budget and Covid-19 recovery plan over attempts to link funding to respect for the rule of law and democratic norms. The Rule of Law Mechanism would give the European Union a tool for sanctioning violations of stated democratic principles by limiting financial instruments more quickly than is currently possible. Both countries are currently under EU investigations for undermining the independence of courts, media and NGOs. In other words, if the mechanism was approved, they would risk losing tens of billions in aid. Without agreement among all member states, projects financed by the seven-year budget will go without funds and the EUR 750 billion agenda to rebuild European economy will not be activated.
Governments in Warsaw and Budapest accuse the EU of aiming to punish them politically because they do not conform to the liberal ideals promoted by some of the EU states, above all Germany and France. Prime ministers Morawiecki and Orban stress that they cannot accept changes to the draft which was adopted unanimously in the summer. They expect that German presidency will offer a new proposal, this time – in their words – not violating the Lisbon Treaty. There have, in fact, been small amendments to the draft. The key one requires that the mechanism can be set in motion as soon as the serious risk of misuse of EU funds is identified. An original version stipulated that the misuse must have occurred. Sanctions require the agreement of at least 15 member states whose populations total at least 65% of the EU’s overall population.
Both Central European prime ministers also claim that the wording of the Rule of Law Mechanism is vague and unclear, which could be used by the majority of the old EU members against the states that want to protect their identity. Morawiecki has said the term “rule of law” is “propaganda” that reminds him of communism. PM Office in Warsaw keeps on sending letters to Ursula von der Leyen concerning an attempt to link the funds to rule-of-law, but the Commission’s position remains unchanged. “We believe that the conditionality mechanism that has been adopted corresponds to the agreement that was found by leaders in July during the European Council,” EC spokesperson Eric Mamer said. What is more, the Commission is assessing options to circumvent Hungary and Poland’s veto, and could come up with a proposal early next year if their blockade remained.
Once again, Morawiecki has been politically blackmailed by justice minister Zbigniew Ziobro, his biggest opponent within the government and leader of the most anti-European party in the ruling coalition, the Solidarity Poland. It was Ziobro who publically demanded the veto and announced that any other action would mean political surrender of Morawiecki.
It has been reported that Poland and Hungary are already trying to persuade (with not much success) Portugal, that will take over the Council´s presidency in January, to change its position about the rule of law and cut a new deal. More even, they might be willing to prolonge the process until the Slovenian presidency in June, as Slovenian prime minister Janez Janša supports the position of Orban, his political patron.
The PiS majority in the Sejm adopted a resolution expressing support for the government in negotiations in Brussels. And a few days later, the Senate adopted a resolution prepared by the opposition Civic Coalition, calling on the government to adopt the negotiated draft EU budget. “I appeal to the authorities: go back to respecting the rule of law and the conflict with the European Union will resolve itself,” Speaker of the upper chamber Tomasz Grodzki said in an address broadcasted by public media.
The opposition threats that the veto means not only loss of billions of euro that should be spent on the post-Corona stimulus, but it also equates one more step towards the Polexit. Representatives of the government keep saying that Poland is a wealthy country and can create its own recovery fund. “The Polish economy is doing very well and of course next year we can survive without the part of the funds that would be slashed by the provisional budget, but why should we survive without EU funds if there is still room for agreement and I believe this agreement will be reached,” deputy prime minister Jarosław Gowin said in a rather conciliatory manner.
“I … reaffirmed our readiness to veto the new budget if we do not find a solution that is good for the EU as a whole, not just for some of its members,” Morawiecki wrote on his Facebook profile after a video conference with Angela Merkel. This is something that Budapest finds unacceptable. Orban has voiced his disapproval of the Polish plans to back down from the veto. “The explanatory memorandum Poland wants to be attached to the rule of law regulation won’t work for Hungary,” he stressed.
According to the polls, vast majority of Polish people is still in favor of the European integration, majority (66%, according to OKOpress survey) supports the rule of law mechanism. PiS knows how Poles feel about the EU and sees how the opposition uses the veto to show that the government is depriving Polish companies and Polish families from money so much needed for the recovery after the devastating year 2020. Most probably, Morawiecki will sign a final budget agreement , but harm done to Polish reputation in Europe is irreversible (once again).
Pain Among the Faithful
The Archbishop emeritus of Wrocław, Cardinal Henryk Gulbinowicz, dies at the age of 97. He was born in 1923 in Sukikes, in the Archdiocese of Vilnius. In 1970, he was appointed Apostolic Administrator of Vilnius for the territory included in the Polish political borders. In 1976, he was appointed Archbishop of Wrocław. In 1985 Gulbinowicz was created cardinal by John Paul II.
He was one of the most respected priests during the communist time, who visibly supported the Solidarity movement in the 1980s. His political engagement in favor of democracy clouded his flaws, especially interest in young men. Only in 2019, prosecutors opened an investigation into allegations against Gulbinowicz concerning sexual abuse of a seminarian in the 1980s, but they dropped the case because too much time had passed since then. Last year he was portrayed in a documentary about pedophilia in the Polish church “Tell No One” (read more in the May 2019 issue of the Newsletter) as one of those bishops who covered up sexual predators. The film alleged that Gulbinowicz saved a priest suspected of abuse of minors from arrest by vouching for him. The documentary shook the church and Pope Francis accepted the resignation of the bishop of Kalisz, Edward Janiak, who was also accused of shielding priests known to have sexually abused children in “Tell No One”.
A few days before his death, Gulbinowicz was subjected to sanctions issued by the Vatican, after an investigation into charges of harassment, homosexual acts, and collaboration with the then Security Service. In particular, disciplinary actions against him included being “prohibited from taking part in any public celebration or meeting; prohibited from using the episcopal insignia; and prohibited from the funeral service and burial in the cathedral”. The cardinal was also required to donate an “appropriate” sum of money to the St. Joseph Foundation, established by the Polish bishops in October 2019 to support abuse victims and promote their safeguarding.
Wrocław archdiocese has apologised and promised to make amends to victims after its former leader. “That this matter has been taken up, clarified and pursued to the end shows there is no concession in the Church for such a crime, which will never be tolerated,” it said in a statement. Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki, the head of the Polish episcopate, said Gulbinowicz had caused “pain” among the faithful.
Earlier in November, the Holy See has ordered an investigation of the recently retired archbishop of Gdańsk, Sławoj Leszek Głódź, a close collaborator of Gulbinowicz, on suspicion of negligence over sex abuse allegations. Last year priests in his diocese accused Głódź of covering up instances of sexual abuse, but he denied any misconduct. An inquiry has been launched under the rules of Vos Estis Lux Mundi, the Vatican’s new anti-abuse legislation which came into effect last year.
The allegations reached also the closest collaborator of the Pope John Paul II, cardinal Stanisław Dziwisz. Dziwisz was publicly accused in the documentary “Don Stanislao. The other face of Cardinal Dziwisz” that cited evidence that papal secretary connived in covering up sex abuse by clergy both in Rome and in Poland and might have taken bribes. “Never, I repeat: never did I accept any money to cover up acts or facts deserving the attention of the Holy Father; never, and once again, never did I support despicable people in return for donations written into some perverse logic of exchange,” Dziwisz denied.
The allegations were confirmed in the Vatican’s report on the now-disgraced former American cardinal Theodore McCarrick. The 400-page report documents that in 2000 John Paul II appointed McCarrick archbishop of Washington despite repeated warnings from the church officials related to allegations of decades of sexual misconduct. According to the report, Dziwisz handled the Pope’s correspondences, including a warning from the cardinal John O’Connor about allegations against McCarrick, and from McCarrick insisting on his innocence.
The report coincided with the women strikes after the abortion ban imposed by the politicized Constitutional Tribunal (read more in the previous issue). It has worsened already a terrible image of the church in eyes of protesters who accuse the clergy of provoking the abortion ban and other ultra-conservative policies of the PiS government. Reacting to these revelations, left-wing politicians demanded that Dziwisz should be prosecuted and stripped of his honors. On the other side, the right wing politicians and intellectuals, being afraid that Dziwisz´s scandal must eventually hit the position of John Paul II in the Polish society, started a campaign to protect the Pope’s good name. However, there is no doubt that after many years of silence and common acceptance of the dogma of holiness of John Paul II, Poland is right before a national discussion about his pontificate and speedy canonization process.
Women’s Strike Continues
Since 22nd October, hundreds of thousands across Poland have been protesting against the abortion ban ruling (read more in the previous issue). Marches and acts of civil disobedience have continued ever since. Few expected the protests to last so long. According to the main coordinators of the protests, it is no longer possible to use Facebook as an organizing tool because the platform can’t accommodate the scale of the movement. With over five hundred thousand Women’s Strike followers on Facebook, no one is able to track or respond to comments. Some other tools, including Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok, are used to mobilize young people, who are the base of the protests.
Rallies became especially visible on women’s vote anniversary as it’s been 102 years since Polish women have won their voting rights. On this occasion, protesters in Warsaw “renamed” a square where the biggest demonstration was organized into Women’s Rights Roundabout. An activist climbed onto a ladder on a van to hang a new street sign over the official one reading Roman Dmowski Roundabout.
And the government seems to be lost. It has delayed implementation of the Tribunal’s ruling. “There is a discussion going on, and it would be good to take some time for a dialogue and for finding a new position in this situation which is difficult and stirs high emotions,” Michał Dworczyk, head of the PM Office, said. According to the Polish law, judgments must be published with no delay. PiS is using a legal trick to withhold publishing.
Another sign proving that the government is lost is the fact that the government started using rough force to prevent and ban protests. The interior minister Mariusz Kamiński warned that the public administration would not tolerate “a revolution made by force against the constitutional organs of the Polish state”. Police breaks up the protests after declaring that its organizers had not fulfilled legal requirements to inform authorities ahead of time. Police also claims that demonstrations break rules barring large gatherings during the Covid-19 pandemic. Brutality of the police is growing. A special anti-hooligan squat was sent to pacify a peaceful women’s gathering in front of the state-owned TV. Plainclothesmen used telescopic batons against demonstrators causing panic as the demonstrators thought they had been attacked by extreme right counter-protesters. In multiple occasions demonstrating women, including members of parliament and journalists, got pepper-sprayed by the police.
“I was brutally pushed into a police van, where they were trying to tell me that I was the aggressor,” Agata Grzybowska from Gazeta Wyborcza wrote in a statement published on Facebook. She claimed that at the police station, she was pressured to plead guilty, but she refused to do so. The International Press Institute (IPI) put out a statement “strongly protesting” Grzybowska’s arrest. It also issued a media freedom alert, which IPI uses to register concerns regarding potential infringements of journalists’ rights. However, the police have noted that the officers were unaware that Grzybowska was a member of the press when they decided to detain her.
The European Parliament accused the Polish government of improperly influencing the court that imposed a ban on abortion. MEPs described the abortion ruling as “yet another example of the political takeover of the judiciary and the systemic collapse of the rule of law in Poland”. The resolution called for EU institutions to do more to support sexual and reproductive health rights across member states and to support grassroots and civil society groups that foster the rule of law.
Our Civilization, Our Principles
Like (almost) every year, Polish Independence Day turned into a dirty street fight. The annual far-right march that in 2020 – in times of pandemic, when the Warsaw mayor refused to authorize a public gathering – was supposed to be a car parade under the slogan “Our civilization, our principles” ended up to be a violent battle against the law enforcement authorities. This is nothing new, but this year the march attendants were particularly aggressive. Some threw firecrackers, bottles and bricks at the officers and at windows with rainbow flags and thunder posters (a thunder is a symbol of the Women’s Strike movement). One apartment – sadly with a huge collection of art pieces – was set on fire. A 74-year-old photographer of Tygodnik Solidarność was injured.
Polish police used tear gas and rubber bullets and reported a number of arrests. It has also communicated that some injured police officers were hospitalized.
“Clashes with the police, damage, trains held up, probably a (case of) arson, this is how the far-right, overindulged by the ruling team, is observing the Independence Day,” mayor Rafał Trzaskowski summed the event on Facebook. Liberal MP from the Nowoczesna party, Paulina Hennig-Kloska, tweeted: “Give us back our holiday and the joy that should accompany it. This is a crime, not patriotism”.
All recent Independence Marches featured far-right and fascist imagery as well as controversial slogans such as “Europe will be white or uninhabited” or “White Europe of Brotherly Nations”. For this reason, Polish liberals have called to delegalize the organization standing behind the event.
This year, the March was attended by some far-right MPs, including former presidential candidate Krzysztof Bosak, from the Confederation group. Nevertheless, PiS has not officially participated in the event, even though some years ago the president Andrzej Duda walked proudly at its head. Despite the fact that the 2020 edition of the nationalist demonstration was particularly brutal, PiS officials did not condemn it as Kaczyński’s party is competing with far-right groupings for their electorate. According to the governmental propaganda, it was the feminist groups who provoked the hooligans to use violence and fight the police.
Poland- Immigration Leader
Poland issued more first residence permits to immigrants from outside the European Union than any other member state last year. It is the third year in a row that Poland has led the EU in this category, reflecting an unprecedented recent wave of immigration. Eurostat’s new figures for 2019 show that almost three million first residence permits were issued to citizens of non-EU countries by all member states combined: 724.416 were issued by Poland, 460.340 by Germany, 320.037 by Spain and 285.086 by France. In a ranking of the number of residence permits issued in relation to countries’ population size, Poland was third in the EU, behind only of Malta and Cyprus.
83% of all permits issued by Poland were for citizens of Ukraine, followed by Belarus, Georgia, Russia and Moldova.
Polish Women Entrepreneurs 5th in the World
Polish women have been ranked as the 5th most entrepreneurial in the world. The 2020 Mastercard rankings were led by Israel with the United States in second, Switzerland in third, New Zealand in fourth and Poland in 5th place. Poland thus became the highest ranking European Union country. There is only two more EU members in the top 10, namely Sweden and Spain.
Poland’s new higher ranking comes on the back of receiving a 6,8% higher score than last year on the index, pushing the country 11 places up.
According to the National Court Register (KRS) nearly 800,000 women were the owners of sole trader businesses in Poland in 2020. There were 88,700 women holding the position of President or CEO in Polish companies and over 120,000 organizations where the board was made up of only females.
Mastercard’s Index of Women Entrepreneurs uses in-depth analysis across 12 indicators and 25 sub-indicators spanning Advancement Outcomes, Knowledge Assets & Financial Access, and Supporting Entrepreneurial Conditions. The ranks were created based on analysis of the data from institutions such as the World Bank, UNESCO, World Economic Forum (WEF), InterParliamentary Union and the OECD.
Chopin’s Dearest Lover
Swiss music historian Moritz Weber has announced that Poland’s greatest composer, Fryderyk Chopin, was passionately in love with men. He has claimed that biographers have ignored and even mistranslated Chopin’s homoerotic letters to make them conform to Poland’s conservative standards.
Weber discovered a “flood of declarations of love aimed at men” in Chopin’s letters. Meanwhile the composer used rumors of affairs with women as a “cloak for hidden feelings”. The most traditional story of composer’s love life is that he was in a relationship with the writer George Sand. However, according to Weber, Chopin wrote to his school friend Tytus Woyciechowski in one of 22 letters: “You don’t like being kissed. Please allow me to do so today. You have to pay for the dirty dream I had about you last night”. He finished many of the letters to Woyciechowski with the words “Give me a kiss, dearest lover”.
The documentary has obviously attracted lots of notice in Poland. Many newspapers informed in a sensational tone that Chopin was gay. But not everybody is enthusiastic about the news from Switzerland. “Because Chopin was rather discreet about revealing his intimate life even to his closest friends, the most trusted among them being Tytus Woyciechowski, it is difficult to build theories about this aspect of his life”, a spokesperson for Fryderyk Chopin Institute in Warsaw said, adding that “[t]he claims that there were attempts to airbrush something from history are simply absurd”. “Moritz Weber of SRF has actually ‘discovered’ something that every second-year student of musicology in Poland knows about”, he stated.
Millions for Millionaires…
The ministry of culture released the names of over 2.000 beneficiaries of its PLN 400 million (ca. EUR 90 million) support fund. Analysis of the document has shocked the public opinion. It included not only respected orchestras, theaters, music halls, and arts schools, but also several most successful singers and actors, and their companies. Two most symbolic names on the list were Golec uOrkiestra, very popular folk-pop band heavily promoted by TVP, and Bayer Full, a representative of disco polo, very simple dance music germ. The latter one, who claims to be extremely successful in China, got PLN 400.000 from the government and the first one PLN 1,9 million. This should be compared with some recognized drama theaters that received only PLN 4 million. Critics claimed that the awarded celebrities did not deserve any support at a time when countless artists were struggling financially hoping to survive the pandemic. Giving “millions to millionaires” is “illogical and indecent”, wrote Rzeczpospolita commentator Andrzej Stankiewicz
Criticism escalated to charges of corruption. The ministry insisted that the funding had been allocated objectively based on documented lost earnings since March. “Who got support was not determined by sympathies [nor] the type of art, but by an algorithm showing who lost income as a result of the pandemic. It is not money for one person, but for whole teams of people who lost their livelihood overnight,” deputy PM Piotr Gliński tweeted.
Nevertheless, after heavy criticism, the government has frozen its support fund to compensate the culture sector. Gliński pledged that there would be an “urgent” review of the list of beneficiaries. He admitted that the plan did not look good to the public and negatively affected the ministry’s image.
…and Millions for Flagpoles
The governing PiS is experiencing indeed big difficulties with spending the funds from the “anti-Covid shield” programme properly. The government’s initiative to buy a Polish flag and a flagpole for each municipality in the country is also to be paid for with money designated for combating… the pandemic, and will cost ca. PLN 6 million (EUR 1,3 million). To secure a new Polish flag and flagpole to fly it on, municipalities needed to get a certain number of online votes from their residents: 100 for districts with up to 20,000 residents; 500 for those up to 100.000 residents; and 1.000 for those with a population of more than 100.000.
New Chapter in Polish-US Relations
President Andrzej Duda ratified a defense agreement with the United States that cements a greater American troop presence in the country. President Duda said that most importantly, the agreement is a guarantee of security for Poland and for this part of Europe. “Everyone who is familiar with politics knows perfectly well that the conclusion of this agreement will not only bring military effects, it will not only translate into the US military presence – personnel and infrastructure (…). It is primarily a guarantee of security. For Poland and for the whole of this part of Europe”, he stressed.
The agreement on enhanced defense cooperation complements last year’s declarations by the presidents of both countries to increase the number of US personnel from 4.500 by at least a further 1.000. Thanks to the military infrastructure, which, according to the agreement, will be prepared by Poland, it will be possible to immediately deploy additional forces to Poland in the event of a possible threat, ensuring a total presence of up to 20.000 American soldiers.
The deal was sealed between Duda and his American counterpart Donald Trump over a year ago. The election of Joe Biden put the Polish government and Andrzej Duda in a somehow awkward position, though. All PiS-related politicians and media obviously and shamelessly supported Trump in the campaign. At the same time, Biden had accused Trump of backing authoritarian regimes around the globe, mentioning Poland among others. After most of the world leaders congratulated Joe Biden for his victory, Andrzej Duda tweeted oddly: “Congratulations to Joe Biden for a successful presidential campaign. As we await the nomination by the Electoral College, Poland is determined to upkeep high-level and high-quality PL-US strategic partnership for an even stronger alliance”.
Andrzej Duda and his friends from PiS must very well know that their only powerful ally is gone and a difficult period in relations with the USA is about to come…
Under a proposal by the finance ministry, Polish businesses and individuals employed by the US military presence in the country are to be exempted from the income tax. The ministry says that the proposed exemption will boost infrastructural and logistical support for US troops, but also level the playing field for Polish entities hoping to compete for contracts.
Germany and Poland
Support in Covid-19
Germany offered to help Poland deal with the Corona-pandemic. The German president Frank-Walter Steinmeier wrote with an offer to Andrzej Duda
This offer caused a wave of outrage in Polish right wing media. Nationalists felt offended. PiS officials refused the offer. This reaction met with incomprehension from Polish public opinion and, especially, medical staff. Many medical figures have expressed concerns that the government is not doing anything to explore options for support from the West at a time when the Polish health system is straining under record numbers of Covid-19 cases. Independent media outlets pointed at the Czech Republic that accepted a similar offer and received one hundred respirators, while some Czech patients have been taken to Bavaria for treatment. They stressed that such equipment is also much needed in Poland.
After high pressure from numerous social groups Andrzej Duda responded a month later. Expressing his thanks for this gesture, Duda assured that Poland, if necessary, is ready to… help Germany in the fight against the effects of the pandemic. : “Unfortunately, the second wave of Covid-19 does not spare our societies and countries that have to cope with this great challenge. In this difficult time, all gestures of solidarity take on special value. Thank you all the more for your letter and the offer of possible help from Germany. I know that our government colleagues are cooperating to curb the pandemic”, Duda wrote.
From the other side, Polish minister of foreign affairs Zbigniew Rau said the media had tried to make Germany’s offer look political or ideological, but that it “makes no sense”, adding that the question as to whether Poland needs help should be addressed to the health minister. “From my point of view, like every concerned citizen, but also a former province governor, I can only say that we do not lack any hospital beds or apparatus or equipment. However, there is a lack of the necessary number of medical personnel,” he added. Rau explained he would only be involved in talks on the matter with Berlin if the German authorities requested his ministry’s involvement.
Adam Struzik (PSL), marshal of Mazovia Province, where Warsaw is located, said that, “in contrast to the government, we are interested in help”. He had written to the heads of the state governments of Brandenburg and Saxony-Anhalt to ask for their assistance. Even though the Polish government is not interested in the offer from Berlin, many local authorities are and medical support from Germany has arrived to a number of hospitals all over Poland.
German airline Condor is suing the state-owned Polish Aviation Group (PGL) for EUR 55,8 million after PGL withdrew from an agreement for PLL LOT, to buy Condor this year (read more in the January 2020 issue). LOT claims that Condor “breached obligations resulting from the investment agreement” and that PGL’s decision to pull out therefore remains “both effective and legitimate”. “After the initial analysis of the lawsuit, in the opinion of the management board there are no grounds to change the position regarding the effectiveness of the company’s withdrawal from the investment agreement,” PGL wrote, adding that “the lawsuit is an unjustified attempt to obtain undue compensation”.
On 1st December Condor announced that is has successfully left the protective shield proceedings (“Schutzschirmverfahren”) after 14 months. This form of insolvency protection was authorized by a Frankfurt court just two days after Thomas Cook’s liquidation.
LOT put in a request for PLN 4,5 billion (EUR 1 billion) of public financing to help cover losses incurred during the pandemic. The European Commission will have to approve the relief package.
A zoo in Wrocław has captured the birth of a mouse-deer, or Tragulus nigricans in Latin, on camera for the first time ever, in a hopeful moment for the highly endangered species originating from the Philippines. The baby chevrotain was the size of a large matchbox and weighs around 100 grams. The number of specimens in the wild probably does not exceed 100.
The animal is among the 25 “most wanted lost” species sought after by the Global Wildlife Conservation’s Search for Lost Species initiative. In 2018, the organization gathered a team of scientists whose goal was to find mouse-deers in Vietnam. The Wrocław zoo supported the initiative financially. The expedition was a success and the animals were found in southern part of the country. The exact localization of the population was not disclosed, since it could put the existence of this species in jeopardy.
A few days before the birth was captured by cameras in Wrocław, the zoo in Warsaw welcomed a mouse-deer in its premises. Arnold, this is how he was named, came from Bern and will share an enclosure with a mountain peacock.
Polls & Trends
IBRiS for wp.pl, 27.11.2020
Civic Coalition 22,4%
What will you buy for Christmas?
What will you buy for Christmas?
Books, films, music 31%
Beauty products 28%
Personal hygiene products 18%
IT equipment 17%
Games and gaming equipment 16%
Who will buy presents online?
Age 18-29 71%
Age 30-39 70%
Age 50-59 58%
Age 60+ 57%
Miłosz is an 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.