From Poland with Love. April

From Poland with Love
© FNFreiheit 

Topic of the Month

Elections after Elections

Civic Coalition’s (KO) candidates won the second round of the local elections on April 21. Additional voting was necessary in 748 municipalities, including 70 cities, where none of the candidates won over 50% of the vote two weeks earlier.

Aleksander Miszalski (KO) won in Kraków, slightly beating an independent Łukasz Gibała supported by a board coalition of parties and urban associations, including these of far left and very liberal ones. On the final straight also PiS appealed to its voters to choose Gibała, but it didn’t change the final result. In Wrocław, incumbent Jacek Sutryk, with support of Donald Tusk, defeated (68%) the candidate of the Third Way, MP Izabela Bodnar, who received even less votes than on April 7. In Rzeszów, the capital city of the PiS’s stronghold Subcarpatian region, the incumbent Konrad Fijołek (supported by KO) won with the candidate of Jarosław Kaczyński. KO candidates won also, among others, in Kielce and Toruń.

PiS did not succeed in any of the biggest cities. The largest city which will be governed by this party is Jastrzebie Zdrój (ca. 86.000 people, 36th biggest in Poland). Even the Left won in bigger municipalities, i.e. Częstochowa and Włocławek. Far-right Confederation will have its first mayor. Patryk Marjan won with a PiS candidate in Bełchatów. PiS also lost its bastion, the capital city of the conservative Tatra region, Zakopane (new mayor comes from KO).

In total, KO candidates got 17% of the vote; those from PiS – 8%. 75% of Poles voted for local commitees.

“In the local elections, it’s very difficult to say unequivocally who won, who lost. A lot of candidates are independent, they represent independent committees. But if, especially in the most attractive places, we compare the results of the two main political forces, i.e. Civic Platform and PiS, I actually have reasons to be satisfied. PiS simply disappeared in many places”, commented Donald Tusk. He also stressed that Tricity aglomeration will be ruled fully by women. In Gdańsk, Aleksandra Dulkiewicz won again in the first round, and in Sopot, the mayor will be replaced by Magdalena Czarzyńska-Jachim. Gdynia elected in the second round Aleksandra Kosiorek, an independent activist. 

The turnout was disappointing 44%.

Directly after the regional and local elections a short EP campaign has started in Poland. On June 9 Poles will elects their 53 representatives in Brussels and Strasbourg. Forty committees have registered, including those of all the parties present in the Sejm. The main battle for seats will take place between the ruling parties and PiS, with far-right Confederation in the background. There was much discussion about the number of lists on the current coalition’s side. Donald Tusk opted for a broad EPP list with his Civic Platform and PSL. The Left wanted to run again with the Civic Coalition (in 2019 Civic Coalition, the Left and PSL created a common list named the European Coalition). Eventually, PSL decided to renew its alliance with Poland 2050 and run together as the Third Way, which caused registrations of separate KO and the Left committees.

As the Polish EP elections system is very complicated (a mix of the d’Hondt method and the Hare-Niemeyer method) and the country is divided into 13 constituencies without pre-assigned number of MEPs, all committees present on their lists their most well-known faces, including current members of the government, MPs, mayors. Civic Coalition’s list will be lead in three districts by current ministers, Bartłomiej Sienkiewicz responsible for culture, Borys Budka responsible for state assets, and interior minister Marcin Kierwiński. The former two names are not surprising. It has been commented since the 2023 elections that Sienkiewicz will move to the EP after finishing very difficult reforms in the TVP and other intuitions of culture, and Budka’s performance in the ministry has not been evaluated highly by the coalition. However, Kierwiński’s departure was a shocker, maybe motivated by the fact that his position within the party and government became too strong, and Donald Tusk wanted to sidetrack him. Second place in Warsaw, after Kierwiński, went to former mayor of Warsaw and governor of the national bank Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz. A very incomprehensible move since she represents a very conservative wing of the party and left her post in Warsaw in the atmosphere of a scandal.

Also PSL is trying to send to the EP one of its ministers, Krzysztof Hetman, responsible for development and technology. Third Way’s lead positions were divided between PSL and Poland 2050. The leader of the Warsaw list will be not very well-known deputy chairman of Poland 2050, Michał Kobosko.

The Left is doing everything to survive these elections and stop its negative trend. Passing the 5% threshold will most probably result with 3 MEPs for S&D. The most probable mandate will come from Warsaw, where current MEP and co-president of the Left Robert Biedroń campaigns for re-election. It can be more difficult this time since many voters  still remember that 5 years ago Biedroń promised not to take the EP seat and lead his party in general elections. He didn’t. What is more, it has been criticized and called as nepotism that the lead position in the second most important constituency for the Left was given to Biedroń’s life partner, deputy justice minister Krzysztof Śmiszek. Both men fear that mobilization of progressive electorate may result in high support and seats for female candidates from the very well organized and disciplined hard-left Together party (a part of the Left block, very successful in 2023 elections).

Jarosław Kaczyński wants to refresh his team in Brussels. Some of current MEPs didn’t make it to the lists this year, including very active politicians such as Zdzisław Krasnodębski and Ryszard Legutko (co-chairman of the ECR Group). PiS made space for some of his loyalists who need the immunity, protection from the law enforcement in Poland. Both Mariusz Kamiński and Maciej Wąsik, sentenced by the court and pardoned by the president (read more in the January edition), have big chances to get elected and not be further prosecuted for their illegal acts while in government. Daniel Obajtek, former CEO of the state-owned multi energy giant Orlen, known as the biggest sponsor of PiS, will lead the PiS list in the party’s stronghold in south-eastern Poland to save him from charges of mismanagement. Also Jacek Kurski, former CEO of TVP, who changed the public TV into a propaganda tube of PiS is coming back to active politics.

Far-right Confederation will have to compete with some smaller, even more radical actors. Among registered committees, three have “polexit” in their name.

In the next term of the EP we will not see some significant Polish politicians. First of all, Jerzy Buzek (KO) decided not to run again. Buzek, former prime minister, was the first president of the EP from Eastern Europe and vote record holder in every EP elections in Poland. In his final address, Buzek spoke of the great challenges the EU faced during his two-and-a-half years at the helm, reminding everyone how unprepared the EU proved to be for the challenges it has been facing: "We have not prepared our Community for difficult and more challenging times. Arguments about self-interest began to erode our belief in the common good. And now, our Union has moved into a deep crisis whose causes are as much political and psychological, as economic".

Also Leszek Miller (S&D), who was the prime minister when Poland entered the EU decided to retire. Janina Ochojska, former president of the Polish Humanitarian Action, known for her fearless defense of the refugees did not find herself on the KO lists this year. Finally, the only Polish representative in the Greens, Sylwia Spurek, dedicated to animal rights will not run this time.


New Anti-Corruption Bureau

Central Anti-Corruption Bureau (CBA) will be liquidated and the Central Bureau for Combating Corruption (CBZK) will be established. This was one of the promises of the Civic Coalition in the 2023 campaign, included in the coalition agreement.

The CBA, established in 2006, was supposed to fight corruption in public and economic life, particularly in public and local government institutions, but it became a political weapon of one party. It was used by PiS to pursue the opposition and became one of the symbols of the regime designed by Jarosław Kaczyński. Former leaders of CBA and former PiS ministers, Mariusz Kamiński and Maciej Wąsik, were sentence for abuse of power earlier this year (read more in the January edition).  Donald Tusk called CBA “practically inactive” and added that he wants “a reliable, apolitical [entity] that will pursue corruption and, above all, keep an eye on the government, not the opposition. And I guarantee you that. We will rebuild these services, equip the police with such capabilities so that no one doubts that the police are not afraid of the authorities”.

Minister responsible for coordinating special services Tomasz Siemoniak said that task of CBA will be divided between local police, tax authorities and the newly created Bureau. The latter one will placed within the police. Siemoniak added that Poland must learn a lesson from its recent decline in rankings assessing the effectiveness of combating corruption. On the other hand, PiS politicians believe that CBA was “first modern special service based on Western standards which, after its many successes, became a model for similar institutions in the region, including the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine”, and that Tusk’s government wants to destroy it to hide its own corruption scandals.

578 Spied Citizens

Poland’s national prosecutor and justice minister Adam Bodnar declared that 578 citizens were targeted with spyware Pegasus between 2017 and 2022. He added that the prosecutor’s office is building a case against former government officials believed to have used this commercial spyware against opposition party members, journalists and activists. According to the minister-coordinator of special services Tomasz Siemoniak, some cases of the Pegasus-espionage where justified (e.g. potential terrorists) but „too many” were not.

The Prosecutor's office has already called 31 people who could have been subject to surveillance by Pegasus to testify as witnesses. It has been reported that also PiS politicians, including Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, were spied. Adam Bodnar said that an enormous amount of information was collected by the services with Pegasus. Headed that the Polish state doesn't have full control over the data that is gathered because the system operates based on a license that was granted by an Israeli company.

John Scott-Railton, a researcher at Citizen Lab, a Canadian institute that focused on Pegasus-related activities all over the world, said in an interview that Poland’s pursuit of accountability regarding spyware deployment has already progressed further than most investigations in the EU. Already in the previous term of the parliament there was a dedicated commission in the Senate and the current Sejm established a special investigative commission (read more in the February edition).

New Regional Language

The Sejm adopted a law recognizing Silesian language as a regional language. This act has  great meaning for hundreds of thousands of Silesian-speakers for whom the language, locally knows as godka, is what they use on daily basis and is an important part of their identity (in the last census 470.000 said they use Silesian, and 50.000 use it exclusively).

Silesian activists have been fighting for decades for the recognition. During communism, the authoritarian regime was against supporting any regional tendencies, and Silesian was officially called a dialect. Chances for the recognitions grew after 1989, but the PiS government was very hostile as the party sees Silesian identity as something foreign and dangerous, connected to Germany. 

Since 2015, liberal MP Monika Rosa (Nowoczesna party) campaigned for the recognition organizing debates and presentation about the language in the parliament. She even spoke the language during the discussions in the plenary. 

The recognition would not be only symbolic. It will also mean additional funds for education in schools and cultural activities. The act will also make it possible to introduce bilingual name boards in municipalities where over 20% of the inhabitants speak Silesian. "The adoption of the act will implement wise programs that will protect the Silesian language from extinction and will help to ward off the threats posed to our language by time, politics, and globalization”, Rosa commented after the final vote.

236 MPs were in favor of the recognition, 186 from PiS and Confederation were against. The latter ones believe the recognition is a first step to disintegration of Poland. Now the bill must be approved by the Senate and signed by the president. It is likely that Andrzej Duda will veto it.

Silesian is an ethnolect, or more precisely a group of several subdialects, of the Lechitic group spoken by part of people in Upper Silesia. Historically, these dialects have been influenced by literary Polish, Czech and German languages, as well as Slovakian and Schlesisch (a dialect of German spoken in Silesia before 1945).

International Affairs

Morawiecki and Pro-Russian Leaders

CPAC (Conservative Political Action Conference) is a gathering of US Republicans and rightwing politicians from around the world, hosted by the American Conservative Union since 1974. One of its editions takes place regularly in Budapest. Many parties and leaders represented at CPAC Hungry are pro-Russian and strongly anti-European. Among the guests of last one (April 2024) were former Slovenian prime minister Janez Janša, Geert Wilders from the Dutch PVV party, Italian deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini, far right leader from Spain Santiago Abascal.

The host of the event, Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said that upcoming European and US elections were a chance for right-wing forces to defeat the “progressive world spirit”. He stressed that real conservatives, like Donald Trump and himself, are being under attack by hegemonic liberal order.

Poland’s former Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki was among key speakers of the event. Morawiecki praised his “friend Viktor Orbán”, stressing that without his tough response to the migration crisis “Europe would today be in chaos with illegal immigration”. He reminded that there was a coalition of three prime ministers who protected Europe in 2015-16, namely Orban, Czech PM Andrej Babiš and himself. He also strongly opposed the European Commission’s idea of a more centralized EU and its green policies.

„Conservatism is a concept of the future that will protect us against the destructive ideas of liberal elites, against the centralization of the EU, against further waves of illegal immigration or threats to our freedoms: of speech, of movement, of agriculture, trade or business”, the ex-PM wrote after the conference.

Morawiecki was criticized for his participation in an event full of pro-Russian and anti-Ukrainian politicians. Polish foreign minister Radosław Sikorski called the CPAC “a ‘witches sabbath’ of pro-Putin nationalists”.

Damian’s Kitchen and “the Biggest Obstacle in Polish-Israeli Relations”

World Central Kitchen (WCK) is to resume distributing food in Gaza, a month after seven of its workers were killed in an Israeli air strike. The victims were three Britons, a Palestinian, Australian, US-Canadian and a Pole. The news facility will be named to honor the latter one, Damian Sobol, and it will be operating under the named ‘Damian’s Kitchen’.

Damian Sobol was 35 year-old and came from Przemyśl. After he died, the town mayor Wojciech Bakun called him a "fantastic boy" and said words could not describe how those who knew him were feeling. Before coming to Gaza, Sobol was engaged in humanitarian projects in Ukraine.

”We are resuming our activities with the same energy, dignity and focus on feeding as many people as possible”, the WCK announced. The NGO reported that 276 trucks are ready to enter the Strip through the Rafah border post, and it intends to send more trucks also from Jordan, and is studying the possibility of using the humanitarian sea corridor from Cyprus and the port of Ashdod.

WCK suspended its operations in Gaza after a convoy leaving a warehouse was attacked by Israel sparking an international outcry.  The IDF called the attack “a great mistake”. Israeli ambassador to Poland refused to issue a direct apology. He said that the attack was an accident and accused his critics in Poland of being anti-Semite. This started a new diplomatic crisis between Warsaw and Tel Aviv. President Andrzej Duda responded that “the statements of the Israeli ambassador to our country are – let me put this as delicately as possible – not very fortunate and, in short, outrageous”. Duda called the ambassador „the biggest obstacle in Polish-Israeli relations”. Prime Minister Donald Tusk added: “I would very much like the representatives of the state of Israel here in Poland to respect the justified emotions of Poles, especially in such a situation”.

Duda Travels to Trump

President Andrzej Duda traveled to the US to meet former president Donald Trump. For many years, Duda together with the PiS party have expressed admiration for Trump, and they were key allies of Trump administration in Europe.

Duda’s minister Wojciech Kolarski called the reunion „an excellent meeting between two friends who recalled that time when they worked together for four years, holding presidential offices. It was a very good time, fruitful for the Polish–American relations. Donald Trump repeatedly stressed his great affection for Poland and the appreciation he has for the Poles”.

The meeting sparked a lot of controversies in Poland. Politicians of the current government named it bizarre. Many stressed that the Polish chief of state should not show support for someone who is facing criminal trials and is does not clearly side with Ukraine. “It is not my role to judge whether it is good for that meeting to take place”, commented Donald Tusk. The prime minister added that he expected Trump would have stand firmly with Europe and the West after the meeting with Duda, but nothing like this happened. Some of Tusk’s ministers were blunter, e.g. sports minister Sławomir Nitras called the whole presidential journey “outrageous” adding that Duda and his office “are simply not up to the function they perform”.

Duda also attended the United Nations meeting and traveled on to Canada. Because of the trip he did not participate in the second round of local elections.

EU Affairs

The Biggest Money Transfer Ever

Poland received almost PLN 27 billion (ca. EUR 6,25 billion) from the first application for payment under the National Recovery Plan (KPO in Polish). The amount is the largest one-off transfer received from the European Union in the whole history of Poland’s membership. Together with the advance payment from the KPO, Poland already has over PLN 48 billion (ca. EUR 11,1 billion).

According to the Ministry of Development Funds, by the end of June, money from the KPO will be transferred to a number of essential projects, e.g., the Clean Air Programme (PLN 1,6 billion); access to high-speed Internet in areas of dead spots (PLN 720 million); modernization of railway traffic safety (PLN 570 million); support for SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) in agriculture (PLN 250 million).

In total, Poland is to receive nearly EUR 60 billion from the KPO, including EUR 25.27 billion in grants and EUR 34.54 billion in the form of preferential loans. These funds will focus mainly on climate objectives (46,6%), followed by digital transformation (21,3%) and social reforms (22,3%).


Record-High Housing Prices

Poland recorded the largest increase in house prices in the last quarter of 2023 among all EU members states. According to Eurostat, costs were up 13% on a year earlier and 4,8% on the previous quarter. In general, the prices in the block remained broadly unchanged (0,2%); in some countries a decrease was observed (-14,4% in Luxemburg and -7,1% in Germany).

According to experts, the prices were rising because of the mortgage subsidies introduced by the PiS government. It contributed to the fact that the number of mortgage applications tripled in one year, with December being the most busy month. After a short-time slowdown in price growth in early weeks of 2024, the prices skyrocketed again when the Tusk administration announced their mortgage subsidies scheme.

Poland & Germany


Foreign ministers Radosław Sikorski and Annalena Baerbock participated in a meeting held in a bridge between the Polish town Słubice and German town Frankfurt to celebrate 20th anniversary of the Polish EU accession. They were accompanied by the then MFAs of the two countries, Włodzimierz Cimoszewicz and Joschka Fischer. They all crossed the bridge, watched an exhibition and participated in a discussion with students of the Viadrina University.

During his address, Sikorski said that in the Union both Germans and Poles are safer, together decide on the shape of Europe and the whole Western civilization. “Minister Baerbock has an emotional advantage over me because she was here 20 years ago—I was not here but I was moved on that day with the fact that Poland finally found itself where it belongs: among friends, among allies, in Europe, at home”, Polish minister concluded.

Party Support (EP elections)

OGB,  22-25.04.2024

Civic Coalition                        33,2%

PiS                                           32,7%

Third Way                               13,8%

Confederation                        12,3%

Left                                         5,6%

The Only Penguin in the Word

Kokosanka (meaning coconut cookie), an albino African penguin (Spheniscus demersus, endangered species) from Gdańsk Zoo won the title of Penguin of the Year. 

According to the Gdańsk Zoo, she is the only one of her kind in the whole world. Due to the lack of pigmentation in the iris, this 6-year-old penguin also has characteristic red eyes, and her blood vessels are visible.

Over 800.000 people voted for their favorite penguin out of a shortlist, put together by animal-protection organization Penguins International.