From Poland with Love - July
Topic of the Month
Baltic Pipe completed
Polish GAZ-SYSTEM and Danish Energinet have completed the key stage of assembly works on the offshore gas pipeline known as the Baltic Pipe. The last welds were made to connect the transmission network in Faxe (Denmark) with the transmission system in Pogorzelica (Poland).
The Baltic Pipe Project is a strategic gas infrastructure project with the aim of creating a new gas supply corridor for the European market. The project started in 2001, when the Danish oil and gas company DONG and the Polish oil and gas company PGNiG signed an agreement on construction of the pipeline under the Baltic Sea.
“Thanks to this investment, we have integrated the gas networks of Poland and Denmark, creating a new gas supply corridor to the region of Central and Eastern Europe. We still have a lot of work on gas infrastructure ahead of us. The assumed date of the transmission start is the October 1, this year”, president of GAZ-SYSTEM Wojciech Stępień said.
Full commissioning of the 274-kilometer Baltic Pipe at a full annual capacity of up to 10 billion cubic meters is scheduled for January 1, 2023. The Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki promised the pipe would be launched on time. The government emphasized that this is a key element of the Polish energy security system. “Today Putin is blackmailing the whole Europe – Germany, the Netherlands, Austria – by limiting gas deliveries in a brutal way. […] But we are not so dependent on Russia – for the first time since we started to buy gas. That is why the Law and Justice government started the construction of the Baltic pipeline six years ago. And we plan to open the pipeline this year in autumn, according to the plan and in line with the budget," Morawiecki said.
On the same day the pipeline was completed, Poland’s commissioner for strategic energy infrastructure Piotr Naimski was dismissed from the government service. Even PiS critics stress that the completion of the Baltic Pipe this year would not be possible without the persistency of Naimski. He was known – and even the opposition after his dismissal admitted it – as a top expert in the energy field in the country. "In an oral explanation, I was told that I am not suitable for cooperation and that I 'block everything'," Naimski tweeted bitterly. Real reasons of this dismissal are not entirely clear. It may be connected with Naimski’s criticism of the merger between Polish oil giant PKN Orlen with another oil company Lotos (read more in the previous issue). Full control over the energy sector in Poland will now be concentrated in hands of Daniel Obajtek, Orlen’s CEO and one of Jarosław Kaczyński’s favorites (also an important sponsor of PiS’s campaigns).
Poland & Ukraine
Special Status Law
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has submitted a draft bill to the Ukrainian Parliament concerning the status and assistance to Polish citizens in Ukraine.
The intention was announced during Zelenskyy’s speech in the presence of Polish president Andrzej Duda. “I particularly thank the Sejm of the Republic of Poland for the law on assistance to Ukrainian citizens, which has been adopted recently. This is an unprecedented decision, according to which our citizens, who have been forced to flee to Poland due to the Russian aggression, will be granted nearly the same rights and opportunities as Polish citizens. Right as legal residence, employment, education, health care and social benefits. It is a great step and a gesture of the great soul, which only a good friend of Ukraine could have made. This step will not remain unilateral. In a near future, I will submit a similar – mirror – draft bill to the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine,” Ukrainian president said.
The law will guarantee Polish citizens the following rights:
- legal stay in Ukraine for 18 months;
- employment without a work permit for foreigners;
- education (in particular, with budget funds) and scholarships;
- use of medical services;
- conduct of economic activity;
- certain social benefits.
In Poland, a crowdfunding campaign to buy a Bayraktar military drone has been completed. Over 200.000 Poles donated PLN 22,5 million (ca. EUR 4,5 million), which makes it the biggest crowdfunding campaign in Poland’s history. Campaign organizers transferred the money to a Turkish drone producer in exchange of one machine. This does not mean that the fundraiser is over: all the extra money will be given to the National Bank of Ukraine to support the army.
The Baykar Makina producer ultimately decided to transfer the Bayraktar TB2 UAV to Ukraine for free and donated the collected sum to support for Ukraine. The same happened with funds raised in Lithuania. Lithuanians were the first to initiate and complete such a fundraiser.
The Bayraktar drone is a medium-altitude long-endurance unmanned combat aerial vehicle capable of remotely controlled or autonomous flight operations with 12-meters wingspan. Operated by the Ukrainian army, it successfully destroyed artillery systems and armored vehicles. It is produced in Turkey by a company founded in the 1980s by Ozdemir Bayrakta and since 2005 it has focused on unmanned aircraft that have been used in Syria, Iraq, Libya or Nagorno-Karabakh.
Morawiecki about to Veto Gas Savings
The Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said that a possible decision on a compulsory reduction in gas consumption in the European Union must be made unanimously, not by a qualified majority vote. He thus wants to have the right to veto such decision. “If the EU tries to coerce us into voting by a qualified majority, we will protest strongly. If necessary, we will make a formal veto and then I am afraid that our attitude to this veto will depend on decisions of the bodies of the European Union,” the Prime Minister said.
According to the plan of the European Commission, the reduced energy consumption could be obligatory only in a state of supply emergency, if a majority of EU countries agrees. The plan proposes a reduction of gas usage between August and March by 15 % compared to average consumption between 2016 and 2021 in the member states.
Minister for the Environment Anna Moskwa said that Poland has already achieved a significant reduction in gas consumption and that the discussion about compulsory cuts was “unnecessary”. Already earlier in July, Polish government argued that the EU was calling for sacrifices and solidarity in one area but leaves out all the rest. This way they referred to the Emissions Trading System, which – according to PiS – is responsible for the increase in energy prices in Poland.
The End of Friendship
The Hungarian-Polish political friendship seems to come to an end. The Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki confirmed that Warsaw and Budapest are now on separate paths.
A beginning of this partition was the Russian invasion in Ukraine and an ambiguous stance of Viktor Orban, who acted as an ally of Vladimir Putin within the European Union most of the time – e.g. by opposing some of the sanctions on energy resources. The tensions escalated in July, when the Hungarian Prime Minister in a speech during a youth meeting in Romania said that although the goals of both nations are the same, “the problem is on the side of the heart”. He stressed that Hungarians perceive the war as a conflict between two Slavic nations, whereas Poles “have a feeling of joint fight alongside Ukraine”. He concluded that the war in Ukraine undermined the Polish-Hungarian cooperation.
Mateusz Morawiecki answered a week later with following words: “I confirm the second part of the Prime Minister Orban’s statement: the paths of Hungary and Poland diverged. However, I do not agree with the first part, because – obviously – Poland does not take any part in the war in Ukraine”.
Orbán’s infamous speech in Romania has been widely condemned all over Europe and labeled as racist, as Orban talked about the supposed purity of the Hungarian race. A significant part of Polish opinion-makers demanded a reaction by the authorities in Poland. “Are Poles no longer a nation in Orbán's eyes because 'the races' are 'mixing' in our country? How long will it take for PiS to look through Fidesz politicians and to break its alliance with this stooge of Putin in the EU? Neither Jarosław Kaczyński nor Mateusz Morawiecki criticized the Hungarian Prime Minister's racist statement. ... As long as you are in a friendship with Putin’s ally, you cannot present yourself as a champion fighting for Ukraine. You cannot represent solidarity and openness and tolerate such divisive and socially dangerous statements at the same time,” wrote one of the most important daily newspapers Rzeczpospolita.
However, there was no reaction to that from Morawiecki ‘s side. Moreover, one of his allies, a journalist Łukasz Warzech, even supported Orban by saying that those racist words serve as an accurate diagnosis of the current situation in Europe.
Visiting Julia P.
According to emails leaked from the account belonging to the head of the Prime Minister's Chancellery Michał Dworczyk, it is believed that Mr. Dworczyk was in touch with Julia Przyłębska, president of the politicized Constitutional Tribunal. The emails were related to some cases submitted to the court.
In the leaked message, Dworczyk told the Prime Minister Morawiecki that he "visited Julia P." and discussed three topics with her, indicating some costs of potential rulings for the state budget and names of judges in charge. Morawiecki answered shortly with "Yes-OK, thanks".
As a reaction, opposition politicians said that contacts and discussions between high governmental representatives and top judges are against the Constitution. The emails prove that the separation of power in Poland does not exist any longer. The opposition called for an immediate resignation of all actors involved, including the Prime Minister. Prosecutor’s office has been notified about the leak.
However, the government ignores the emails. Without denying the authenticity of the emails, PiS MPs say that the leak is part of Russian information war and that the opposition serves Putin. Przyłębska visited all PiS-friendly media repeating that she “had never discussed and does not discuss any rulings with anyone".
According to the European Commission forecast, inflation in Poland in 2022 will be at 12,2 % and at 9 % in 2023. This inflation will allegedly be the highest in the EU. Additionally, the EC stresses that Polish economy entered the year with a strong economic footing, with real GDP growth by 2,5 % in the first quarter of 2022.
EC’s experts marked stock building as the main growth factor, since companies are gradually moving away from just-in-time production due to heightened uncertainty and global supply chain pressures. For what is more, private consumption increased only moderately despite the significant inflow of people fleeing Ukraine: this suggests that the elevated inflation and declining consumer confidence already have an adverse impact on households’ spending decisions. Author of the report adds: “Nonetheless, the consumption growth will be restrained by heightened uncertainty and recent restrictive measures in the monetary policy, which motivates households to save and at the same time weighs on disposable income, especially with regard to large shares of mortgages with variable interest rates in Poland. Elevated cost-pressures, higher uncertainty and stricter financing conditions are also expected to lead to firms postponing their investment projects, including the construction sector," we read in the forecast.
Also the National Bank of Poland (NBP) published its predictions for upcoming months. According to the NBP, Poland’s GDP will slump to just 0,5 % in the Q1 of 2023, and inflation will surge to 18,8 %.
Even if the governor of the national bank Adam Glapiński and other leaders of the right-wing majority in Poland recognize that the inflation in Poland will be among the highest in the EU, they will not accept their fault and their power to reduce it. They coined the name ‘Putinflation’ and exclusively blame Russia for the high prices. They point at natural gas limits and grain exports restrictions in particular. Jarosław Kaczyński stresses the effort of PiS doing whatever is possible and highlights the so called ‘anti-inflation shields’ adopted by his government, without which the inflation in Poland would be 3-4pp higher.
Stores in Poland, supermarkets in particular, are limiting the amount of sugar customers are allowed to buy. This reacts at the sugar panic and massive purchases of this basic product by many Poles, which resides from their fear of sugar shortages (exactly in the preserves-making period!). With this unusual demand, the prices of sugar are rising, which in turn leads to even more people buying it in order to save money.
The reasons of initial price increases are not clear. High inflation in Poland is one of them, but it does not explain this particular case. Some commentators blame small shop owners who bought large amounts of sugar in supermarkets and hypermarkets, since it was cheaper than in wholesales. Others point at people from Ukraine who are coming back to their home country equipped with basic food products, including sugar.
Members of the Polish government blame – not surprisingly – Germany, their favorite scapegoat. “Two large German companies bought up to 60 % of the Polish sugar supply in the 1990s”, reminded the minister of state assets Jacek Sasin, thus leaving room for interpretation.
Treasury of Polish Film
Documentary and Feature Film Studios (WFDiF) launched a platform 35mm.online. It includes hundreds of classic Polish films: 160 feature films (by Andrzej Wajda, Krzysztof Kieślowski and many others), over 70 documentaries, and close to 500 animated films and TV shows. They are available for free, equipped with English subtitles.
Among the titles available, there are also over 3.000 episodes of the Polish Film Chronicle, a newsreel screened in cinemas from 1944 to 1994.
35mm.online aims to secure Poland’s film heritage for future generations by digitally reconstructing and digitizing a wide variety of historic films. It is funded by the European Union, the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage Poland.
The WFDiF has been producing Polish films for 70 years now. Founded in 1949, it was a center for the production of documentary films and the Polish Film Chronicle, later becoming an important center for feature film production as well. Currently, it is the largest film production center in Poland.
Not for Idiots?
Olga Tokarczuk does not stop being in the center of attention in Poland. This time the discussion was provoked not by her latest book, but by her comments about literature and readers.
“I never expected that everyone would read, and I never expected that my books would be owned by everyyone”, Tokarczuk said during the Mountains of Literature Festival. “Literature is not for idiots,” she continued and added: “I do not think a reader, who knows absolutely nothing, will suddenly immerse himself in literature. I write my books for people, who are intelligent, who think, feel and have some sensitivity. I think my readers are like me”.
Some authors sided with Tokarczuk, others accused her of classism and superiority.
From the bright side, Tokarczuk’s newest novel “Empuzjon” is – of course – another bestseller. It tells a story of a spa town in Lower Silesia and refers to Thomas Mann’s “The Magic Mountain”. It has been described as feminist, anti-patriachal, magical. One of the main consequences of the premiere of the book are the skyrocketing prices of real estates in Sokołowsko (Görbersdorf in German), a lovely village not far from Wałbrzych, where the story of “Elizjum” takes place. Sokołowsko had already been known as an asylum for artists, but now it attracts tourists and investors from all over Poland, in particular from Warsaw.
Top Opposition Journalist Fired. Not by PiS Though
Tomasz Lis, one of the most influential Polish journalists, has been fired from the position of editor-in-chief of Newsweek Polska – one of the magazines with a great influence on public opinion in Poland – and accused of mobbing.
In the past, Lis created Fakty TVN, the most important independent news-show in Poland (and direct competitor of the pro-PiS TVP’s Wiadomości). Sudden termination of his contract with Ringier Axel Springer Polska (RASP), owner of the Newsweek Polska, led to suspicions and resulted in reports by independent journalists. The web portal Wirtualna Polska informed that Lis had been accused by some colleagues for, among others, creating terrible working atmosphere and humiliating, vulgar and sexist taunts. The first complaint against Lis was filed already in 2018, Wirtualna Polska noted.
Lis immediately replied: “I categorically deny it. I never did mock appearance or clothing, because – after all – these are issues that do not interest me at all. I also categorically deny that there was harassment, persecution or intimidation of anyone”. “I did not humiliate anyone, I did not treat anyone contemptuously. One of the elements of editor’s work is constructive criticism, and my comments were always for the benefit of the magazine and in line with the interests of readers,” he added.
But the president of RASP sent a letter to the employees concerning the case. “Whenever there are allegations of an inappropriate behavior, we immediately take action, establish facts, so our reaction is always adequate to the degree of violations found. If in the course of the proceedings, inappropriate behavior, such as mobbing or harassment, is confirmed, we take immediate and decisive action,” the letter says. Later RASP announced that an acclaimed filmmaker and journalist Tomasz Sekielski would become the new editor-in-chief. Sekielski used to work in Fakty TVN as well, and is mostly known for his recent documentaries about pedophilia in the church (read more in the May 2019 edition).
However, this did not lead to an end of this story. One of the most well-known liberal journalists Renata Kim wrote on Twitter that she was “grateful to the new editor-in-chief for the listening and understanding he showed for us”. Kim also revealed that she had been the one who informed the RASP about Lis’s behavior. Shortly after that, Kim was publicly attacked by a former employee of Newsweek Polska, who claimed that he was mobbed not only by Lis but also by Kim. This case started a big discussion about standards in Polish media and boundaries between criticism and mobbing. For sure, the discussion will continue and we will probably find out more shady facts from different outlets.
The Youngest Professor
Mateusz Hołda from the Jagiellonian University in Kraków (UJ) became the first scientist in Poland who was awarded the title of professor before the age of 30.
A 29-year-old cardiomorphologist from the Collegium Medicum UJ completed his PhD before having completed his Master’s, and has published nearly 100 works in top scientific journals. His doctoral dissertation received the Prime Minister's Award in 2018. One year later he was included in the Forbes magazine list of 30 young Europeans who are leaders in their fields. Forbes applauded him in the category of “Science & Healthcare.”
Hołda claims that his key achievement was creation of the HEART: Heart Embryology and Anatomy Research Team. It is one of the three most prestigious teams in the world pursuing cardiac anatomy. It elaborates the architecture of heart muscle by reconstructing data, thus creating an extremely precise model of a specific patient’s heart.
The domestic cat was added to the list of alien species in Poland.
Researchers from Nature Conservation of the Polish Academy of Sciences (PAN) wrote that there is no doubt about the cat’s alien origin in Poland and that it has a negative impact on nature. “Cats kill at least several hundred thousand vertebrates annually in Poland and it is difficult not to mention the lack of their negative impact. These are scientific facts”, they added. According to the research, 583,4 million mammals and 135,7 million birds per year are victims of cats. The problem is especially significant in cities where number of birds is decreasing.
The decision of PAN became very alarming for cat-lovers all over Poland, who got afraid that cats, especially roofers, will get hunted in the name of law. Researchers had to comment on their findings to calm the public opinion down: “But on the other hand, it absolutely does not mean that they should now be massively exterminated,” Wojciech Solorz from PAN said. Nevertheless, he noticed that it would be good to limit the number of cats outside during the breeding season, because the death of one parent means the death of the entire brood.
Polls & Trends
Kantar, 15-20 July
Civic Coalition 27 %
PiS 26 %
Poland 2050 8 %
Left 8 %
PSL 5 %
Kukiz’15 3 %
Agreement 1 %
AgroUnia 1 %