From Poland with Love - December
Topic of the Month
An explosion at the office of Poland's police chief Jarosław Szymczyk caused by a grenade launcher resulted in his hospitalization and damages of the building. A civilian employee of the Polish police also suffered minor injuries. “The blast was intense. The force of the shot punctured the floor and damaged the ceiling”, Szymczyk explained.
Two heavy guns were a gift Szymczyk received from Ukrainian police during a visit in Kyiv. He said that both launchers were supposed to be used up and one was turned into… a Bluetooth speaker. Polish delegation took them back to Poland by car before leaving them in the back room of his office.
Szymczyk sees himself as the victim, not the suspect. Prosecutors said they were investigating the blast and granted the police chief a status of a victim.
The opposition calls Szymczyk incompetent and wants his demission. They say it is impossible that a top policemen did not recognize a fully operational grenade launcher, that he illegally transported dangerous weapons from Ukraine to Poland, and that he put lives of many people in danger by playing with the gun. Former foreign minister Radosław Sikorski MEP twitted: “It is true we will not win the World Cup, but thanks to the commander @PolishPolice we are favourite for the Darwin award”.
Two weeks after the incident, new regulations were introduced that require specialized police to go through training with grenade launchers.
Lex Czarnek Vetoes Second Time
President Andrzej Duda vetoed an education reform that he claims has not received broad social acceptance after receiving 133 letters protesting it. The proposal drafted by the radical education minister Przemysław Czarnek (known as Lex Czarnek) envisaged a significant reduction in the autonomy of schools and their greater dependence on superintendents, who represent the minister in all 16 regions. An additional goal of the draft law was to prevent human rights’ and other progressive NGOs, e.g. women initiatives and LGBTQI+ groups, from meeting students inside school buildings.
President Duda has already vetoed the original version of the reform. In February 2022 he argued that in the light of Russian aggression in Ukraine Poles need unity and such controversial change will only divide the nation.
“I am disappointed because the President praised this law in that speech in which he motivated the veto”, commented Czarnek. The opposition feted the veto as Lex Czarnek is seen as extremely devastating for Polish education system.
Panic and Election Law
PiS suggested changes in electoral law. They are supposed to facilitate voting for older citizens, in particular those living in the countryside. The draft law increases the number of polling stations and obliges local authorities to provide free transport on election day for disabled people and voters 60 or older. Additionally, it will be possible to create polling stations in locations as small as 200-300 people (now it is 500).
All the changes are designed to increase turnout among voters’ group that are the most important for the ruling party. The support for PiS is the highest in the smallest rural communities and among senior Poles, but their turnout in election is still among the lowest.
Additionally, PiS declares it wants to ‘democratize’ the elections. Their proposal introduces greater scrutiny of voting and vote counting at polling stations. In addition to parties’ election committee plenipotentiaries, independent observers will have the right to record voting at polling stations. NGOs focused on democracy and human rights will be able to nominate candidates to become such observers.
PiS also wants to change the way elections commissions count the votes. According to the new project, all commission members will have to count the votes together and as a group recognize any invalid votes.
The opposition says PiS is panicking, introducing changes in election laws two days before Christmas. Democratic politicians stress that according to most of the polls PiS will lose power in the autumn elections, and the only goal of the changes is to identify new potential voters of the right wing coalition.
100.000 Teachers to be fired
Minister of education Przemysław Czarnek said that in the perspective of two or three years, about 100.000 teachers will have to be made redundant, adding that a powerful demographic decline is entering, especially in high schools.
This is 1/7 of all Polish teachers. The opposition and unions are shocked and they stress that the government should improve learning conditions for Polish students instead of firing teachers. The decision is difficult to understand also because of the visible shortage of teachers in Poland, in particular in the context of the influx of Ukrainian students. The unions expect that because of that even 50.000 new teachers should be employed.
The decision of the education ministry is not surprising for many observers. PiS needs money to support social and professional groups that predominantly vote for them, e.g. farmers and pensioners, before the 2023 elections. And teachers are known for their criticism towards the current government. (Read more about teachers’ salaries in the October issue.)
The Ministry of Defense is planning to call up to 200.000 people for military training in 2023.
The draftees will serve in different types of services, namely territorial defense, voluntary military service and active reserve. Additionally, over 17.000 new professional soldiers will be contracted.
The head of the Military Recruitment Center said that they are already “calling up mainly people in so-called passive reserve, particularly those who have undergone military service” and a small number of professional, e.g. doctors, without any experience in the army. Their training will last two weeks. This statement created a bit of a panic among Polish men who were afraid of being involuntarily drafted.
Additionally, Poland has extended and expanded the basic military training program for civilians, called “Train with the Army”. The pilot programme run in autumn last year and, according to the ministry, it was a great success. The demand was so big that “Train with the Army on Holidays” was presented to the public. Civilians are invited to train in 31 military units during the winter break, between mid-January and end of February. Classes will last eight hours every Saturday. Everyone aged 16 to 65 is invited to train. Minors are required to get the consent of their parents or guardians.
Zelenskyy in Poland
Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy went for his first foreign trip after the Russian full front invasion started. He visited Washington, D.C. To board a plane to the USA, he had to come by train to Poland. On his way back to Kyiv, he met his Polish counterpart Andrzej Duda for nearly two hours of talks.
The presidents discussed Ukraine’s defense capability and humanitarian issues, including those related to Ukrainian refugees. "We discussed strategic plans for the future, bilateral relations and interactions at the international level in 2023", Zelenskyy wrote on Telegram after a meeting in Rzeszów.
We are not the Black Eyed PiS
Polish state-owned broadcaster TVP organizes yearly a massive New Year’s Eve party in Zakopane, the biggest town in the Polish Tatra mountains. This year the new management of TVP promised a super-star guest to perform during the show. And they couldn’t find one.
About one week before the event, it was announced that the star will be Mel C, the former member of Spice Girls. Leaving aside the question about starship of the singer, TVP managers and attendees of the concert couldn’t be happy for too long. Mel C cancelled her performance under the Tatra mountains after being made aware of issues “that do not align with the communities she supports”. The British singer didn’t say it directly but it became obvious for all observers that her decision was provoked by homo- and transphobic agenda of Polish government and the role that TVP plays in spreading hatred. Mel C was presented last year with the Celebrity Ally prize at the British LGBT Awards for her unwavering support of the LGBTQ+ community.
Panicked TVP started looking for a replacement and just before December 31 it was proclaimed that Black Eyed Peace will be the guest of honor in Zakopane. The American band prepared a surprise for Poland’s right wing and the all four members of the hip-hop group wore rainbow armbands. Will.i.am, the frontman of the band, also sent a message of solidarity with LGBTQI+ people that was transmitted live both in TVP2 and his social media accounts. “We are the Black Eyed Peas…or you can say Black Eyed Peace, because we are for peace, equality, harmony. We are not the Black Eyed PiS”, he commented after the concert.
Black Eyed Peas’ behavior infuriated members of the ruling coalition, in particular the junior partner, the hard-right United Poland party. Its leader, justice minister Zbigniew Ziobro announced he’d ask prime minister Morawiecki if the concert was a manifesto of TVP aimed at promoting “certain values in public life”. His party colleague Anna Siarkowska said that the show promoted anti-Christian values and went against the Constitution. They stressed that United Poland will never accept the promotion of LGBT in public television, and this is what differs them from PiS. Homophobia is indeed one of the agenda points, next to radical Euroscepticism, that United Poland is using to build its position on the extreme right, preparing for potential independent (without PiS) run in general elections or a coalition with the Confederation party.
Ziobro’s reaction pushed PiS towards the center. One of party leaders, Joachim Brudziński MEP said he represents “a party of freedom”, adding that “PiS members do not care about people’s (sexual) preferences.”
A painting titled Reality by Jacek Malczewski has been sold for PLN 17 million (ca. EUR 3,6 million), breaking a record for an art piece sold in Poland.
Malczeski was a Polish master of symbolism, and Reality is his outstanding piece. It is oil on canvas measuring 115 by 209 centimeters. It was presented for the last time in 1926, at the artist’s jubilee exhibition in Lviv. And it disappeared from sight for almost a century. When it was being prepared for auction at the DESA Unicum house in Warsaw, police officers and staff from the National Museum intervened after prosecutors reported it may have been involved in a crime when it was removed from Poland in the 1950s.
DESA Unicum stated that Reality is not stolen property and that before World War II, it belonged to a Polish-German family and it was moved from Silesia to Germany in the 1950s. The prosecutor’s order was revoked in early December and the auction could go on.
Before Reality, the most expensive painting sold in Poland was Two Married Women by Andrzej Wróblewski. It was sold for PLN 13,44 million (ca. EUR 2,89 million) in 2021. In 2022 a sculpture Bambini by Magdalena Abakanowicz was sold for EUR 13,6 million (ca. EUR 2,92 million).
Discover the painting: https://desa.pl/en/reality-jacek-malczewski/
Against Rainbow Families
According to a deputy justice minister, Sebastian Kaleta, Poland will veto the European Commission’s plans to guarantee the cross-border recognition of parenthood, including the rights of same-sex parents, across all EU member states.
With this proposal, the European Commission wants to protect the rights of same-sex parents and their children even in countries where they are not enshrined in national legislation. According to the Commission, the legislation could improve legal situation of ca. 2 million children.
Polish government wrote on their website: “The Ministry of Justice has always stood for strengthening the children’s rights and protecting children against violence. Despite the noble title of the document, this purpose is not served by the “Council Conclusions on the EU Strategy on the Rights of the Child,” the adoption of which was halted following the Polish veto. This is a Union initiative which undermines the traditional model of family and violates international resolutions, such as the 1989 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, ratified by Poland and all EU Member States”. And it concluded: “The initiatives launched by the European Commission give rise to an immense threat to maintaining the traditional family model in our cultural system. Even though they often invoke the rights of the child, they effectively result in children being deprived of fundamental rights conferred on any human being, such as the right to be raised by a mother and father”.
Rule of Law
Charges against Former Chief Justice
A disciplinary charge has been pressed against Małgorzata Gersdorf, former First President of the Supreme Court for expressing the position of the Supreme Court. In the resolution in question, 61 judges of the Supreme Court (almost all SC judges) contested the legality of the politicized National Council of the Judiciary and the appointments it had given.
Disciplinary charges were raised against by Piotr Schab, a disciplinary commissioner of the minister of justice Zbigniew Ziobro, famous for prosecuting independent judges. In June, president Andrzej Duda additionally made him his "extraordinary disciplinary commissioner” in the Gersdorf case. According to Schab, former First President "violated the institution of mandatory suspension of proceedings before the bodies pending a competence dispute"; in other words, she failed to comply with a provision of the Constitutional Court Act, which orders to suspend proceedings of state bodies which are in dispute concerning their competence to adjudicate the same case.
The case will be heard by the Supreme Court’s Chamber of Professional Responsibility, which replaced the controversial Disciplinary Chamber. The replacement was a result of the European institutions’ pressure (a condition before the release of the Recovery Fund). The new chamber does not change much, according to independent lawyers, since no changes has been done in the politicized National Council of the Judiciary, which appoints judges.
Gersdorf, who is no longer a sitting judge, could face a financial penalty.
The number of foreigners with residence permits in Poland has tripled in a year to reach 1,66 million. Of course, it is mostly connected with the number of Ukrainian citizens who came to Poland after February 24. Ca. 1,36 million Ukrainians holds Polish residence permits – this equals 3,5% of the population. 950.000 of Ukrainians are in Poland on the basis of temporary protection granted in accordance with an EU decision in response to the mass displacement of people from Ukraine following Russia’s invasion.
Also numbers of citizens of other countries in Poland are increasing: Belarusians (66.200), Georgians and Russians (both 18.400), Germans (18,000), Indians (13.800), and Vietnamese (12.500).
Poland & Germany
UNESCO for Help
Polish Ministry of Culture asked the United Nations to help regain cultural treasures plundered from the country during World War II. Deputy minister Arkadiusz Mularczyk announced he had "signed a letter addressed to the Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), with a request for cooperation in retrieving cultural objects looted from Poland.” He added that “[t]he accomplishments and achievements of generations of Polish people, heritage architecture, art collections, libraries and archives were being systematically destroyed and stolen.” His office estimates some half a million art pieces were stolen worth over EUR 11 billion in current rate.
Mularczyk stressed that Warsaw is trying to negotiate with Berlin. “To this day, we don’t see any willingness to remedy all the damage, the looting, and to return stolen cultural objects and works of art”, Mularczyk concluded.
German States against Polish Nuclear Power
Four German federal states oppose the construction of the first nuclear power plant in Poland. Berlin, Brandenburg, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and Saxony issued a common statement published by the Brandenburg Ministry of Consumer Protection. “Against the background of the devastating nuclear accidents in Chernobyl and Fukushima, plans for further use of nuclear energy should be abandoned in the interests of the population and the environment of all Baltic [sea basin] countries”, the statement reads.
As a response, Polish right wing media accuse German states of supporting Russian Nord Stream 2 pipeline, reminding that Mecklenburg-Vorpommern set up a foundation in a bid to help complete the project.
In November, Poland chose the American company Westinghouse for the construction of three AP1000 pressurized water reactor units at Lubiatowo-Kopalino in the northern Poland.
One Billion Investment
Mercedes-Benz will invest a billion euros in the Izera electric car factory in Jawor in the coming years. More than 2.500 new jobs will be created by the investment.
Originally, Mercedes intended to collaborate with American startup Rivian to produce all-electric vans in Europe. By consistently focusing on the production of all-electric vans, German car manufacturer says it aims to “achieve productivity advantages and thus significantly improve its competitiveness”. The established location will enable optimization of costs and the supply chain as well as energy-efficient production, the company claims.
Prime minister Morawiecki commented: "The trust shown by Mercedes Benz in Poland is a clear indication of how Poland is developing its production sector and how it is creating the best management and manufacturing conditions for both Polish and foreign investors".
“We are moving towards purely electric vehicles, towards digital solutions. This is a huge effort for the transportation of the future. This is especially true for commercial vehicles, which is why I am extremely pleased that we have signed a memorandum, an agreement with the Polish government and other business partners", Mercedes director Matthias Gisen said at the ceremony.
Polls & Trends
Ipsos for OKO.press and TOK FM, 23.12.2022
Civic Coalition 27%
Poland 2050 10%
Christmas Wishes in Poland and Germany
Ipsos for OKO.press and TOK FM.
What would like to wish for 2023, to your country, to Europe, to the world? (There were six wishes to choose from.)
Wishes more popular in Germany:
- So that we can stop the climate catastrophe. 50% in Germany (23% in Poland).
- So that there is no hunger. 50% in Germany (36% in Poland).
- So that the economic crisis ends. 44% in Germany (32% in Poland).
Wishes more popular in Poland:
- So that Russia loses the war and Ukraine is free. 57% in Poland (35% in Germany).
- So that Christian values are back in Europe 14% in Poland (8% in Germany).
- So that politicians I support win next elections. 19% in Poland (4% in Germany).
Ariadna for Wirtualna Polska, 2-4.12.2022
In Poland after Christmas local priests make pastoral visits to all those who live in their respective parishes.
Are you going to invite a priest to your home this year?
Traditionally, visited families hand over an envelope with cash to a priest.
How much will give this year in an envelope?
Less than PLN 20 10%
PLN 50-100 25%
PLN 100-200 6%
PLN 200-500 1%
Hard to say 22%