From Poland with Love - November
Topic of the Month
After a heated debate within the government, Poland is open to hosting German surface-to-air Patriot missiles on its territory.
Shortly after the missiles hit eastern Poland, German defense minister Christine Lambrecht offered to help defend the airspace of Poland with 2 Patriot batteries (one costs ca. USD 1 billion), as well as help in policing Polish skies with German Eurofighter jets. The first reaction of her Polish counterpart Mariusz Błaszczak was very positive. But his enthusiasm was curbed very quickly by Jarosław Kaczyński’s anti-German comments. Minister Błaszczak changed his opinion and echoed his leader’s words saying that the Patriot system should be installed in Ukraine. PiS refused to accept German offer calling Berlin an unreliable partner who is not doing enough to help Ukraine.
This chaotic response of the Polish government showed more differences within the ruling camp. President Andrzej Duda immediately stated that, if Germany “does not agree to deliver the batteries to Ukraine, then we must accept this defense here” in Poland.
Lambrecht commented that “Patriots are an element of NATO’s Integrated Air and Missile Defense, which means they are to be deployed on NATO territory”. German ambassador to Poland Thomas Bagger added that the batteries are staffed by German troops, so sending them to Ukraine would open the risk of NATO soldiers coming under Russian attack.
This decision of Polish authorities was difficult to understand for the public opinion, especially that even before February 24, the topic of installment of US-made surface-to-air missiles in Poland was commented as something crucial for national defense. The opposition accused PiS of decreasing security of Polish people because of political reasons.
“Our offer to the Polish government to protect their own country is not yet off the table”, repeated chancellor Olaf Scholz.
After immense pressure, PiS politicians changed their decision and narrative by 180 degrees. "After talking to the German Defense Ministry, I was disappointed to accept the decision to reject Ukraine's support. Deploying the Patriots to the western Ukraine would increase the security of Poles and Ukrainians", minister Błaszczak tweeted, adding that “we proceed to working arrangements for placing the launchers in Poland and connecting them to our command system”.
A survey for daily Rzeczpospolita showed that 40,2% of respondents want the government to accept the German offer, while 28,6% believe NATO member states should decide together where to deploy the launchers, and only 12,5% say the Patriots should be sent to Ukraine.
Two Missiles Hit Poland
In the morning of November 15 two missiles hit Polish town of Przewodów, 10 km from the border with Ukraine, killing two people. In the afternoon the news was already all over Polish and foreign media. Polish authorities were trying to calm the public opinion down and did not speculate about the origin of missiles and character of the incident. In contrast, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy delivered his nightly video address, directly blaming Russia for the attack. “Hitting NATO territory with missiles... This is a Russian missile attack on collective security! This is a really significant escalation”, he said. “Action is needed”.
Some of Polish government officials informed about the fact that the missiles were produced in Russia, and justice minister Zbigniew Ziobro suggested that Russia is directly responsible for this incident. After the meeting of the National Security Council president Duda said that he has informed NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and Biden that it is "highly probable" that the Polish ambassador to NATO "will request to invoke Article 4, that is consultations among the allies". According to Article 4 of the military alliance's founding treaty, members can bring any issue of concern, especially related to security, for discussion allowing to determine what steps to take for more time.
On the following day, it was announced that the incident appeared to be unintentional and was probably launched by air defenses of Ukraine. Russia had been bombarding Ukraine at the time in an attack that savaged its power grid. “Ukraine’s defense was launching their missiles in various directions, and it is highly probable that one of these missiles unfortunately fell on Polish territory”, said president Andrzej Duda. “There is nothing, absolutely nothing, to suggest that it was an intentional attack on Poland”, he stressed. This version was confirmed by the White House and NATO secretary general. The latter underlined: “This is not Ukraine’s fault. Russia bears ultimate responsibility”. “This wouldn’t have happened without the Russian war against Ukraine, without the missiles that are now being fired at Ukrainian infrastructure intensively and on a large scale”, echoed German chancellor Olaf Scholz.
Volodymyr Zelenskyy disputed these conclusions and demanded an investigation. And Kremlin said that accusations towards Moscow are “another hysterical, frenzied, Russo-phobic reaction that was not based on any real data”.
Investigators from Ukraine have visited the site in Poland three days after the incident. Even before that, Ukrainian position softened slightly, when Zelenskyy admitted that he “does not know 100%” if the missile was Russian. The official investigation is undergoing.
Thunders for Norway
Norway and Polish firm Mesko have signed a USD 35,6 million contract to deliver man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS) to the Norwegian Army. The agreement is part of Norway’s plans to integrate the latest, upgraded missiles into the armed forces. The Piorun (thunder) MANPADS will cover the lowest elevation level with their fire-heat-seeking missiles.
The Piorun MANPAD is designed to defend against unmanned aerial vehicles, winged rockets, planes, and helicopters. It is equipped with a proximity sensor-assisted fuse for precise detonation and features such as day sight, thermal vision sight, pursuit-collision mode, and target identification. It specializes in aircraft, helicopter, and drone targets from ground level to an altitude of 4.000 meters.
President Andrzej Duda became once again a victim of Russian pranksters. He spoke on phone for over 7 minutes with someone who pretended to be French president Emmanuel Macron. The call happened shortly after the Russia-built missiles hit Polish village killing two people.
"Emmanuel, believe me, I am extra careful", Duda explained to prankster who faked French accent. "I don't want to have war with Russia and believe me, I am extra careful, extra careful."
After the incident, the Chancellery of Polish President tweeted: "After the missile explosion in Przewodów, during the ongoing calls with heads of state and government, a person claiming to be French President Emmanuel Macron was connected”. For experts it is clear that the radio performers behind the prank did not act without green light from Russian intelligence. The situation – another this year – raises questions about professionalism and security of the top decision makers in Poland.
Russian pranksters Vovan and Lexus have managed to trick the likes of Macron, Boris Johnson and Elton John in the past.
Lavrov Couldn’t Come to Łódź
The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe had its first high-level meeting after Russia started its full-front invasion in Ukraine. A two-day-long meeting was organized in Łódź, where foreign ministers and other representatives strongly denounced Russia's aggression. During the opening speech president Andrzej Duda said: “Those responsible for the crime of aggression, for war crimes against humanity and for genocide must be held accountable, absolutely”. “Only in this way we can restore peace in Europe and prevent acts of aggression in the future”, he added.
Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov was notably missing in Łódź as Polish authorities did not allow him to enter Poland.
Jarosław Kaczyński decided to speak about demography during one of party rallies. And it provoked a storm… PiS leader commented that far too few children are born in Poland, and he blamed women for that, in particular young women and their alcohol consumption.
"And here it is sometimes necessary to say a little openly, some bitter things. If, for example, the situation remains such that, until the age of 25, girls, young women, drink the same amount as their peers, there will be no children", Kaczyński stated. In his opinion to develop alcoholism, the average man "has to drink excessively for 20 years" but a woman “only two". "I am really a sincere supporter of women's equality, but I am not a supporter of women pretending to be men, and men pretending to be women," he concluded.
Women rights’ groups called for demonstrations against these offending words. They blamed Kaczyński and his party for the low fertility rate. They stressed that PiS has been eight years in power and done nothing to improve women’s situation. Contrarily, it introduced several anti-women laws, including the infamous abortion ban. Women activists and opposition politicians said that Polish women do not have children because they are scared about their life, health and economic situation and not because they massively drink alcohol.
Kaczyński Punished by Court
A court decided that Jarosław Kaczyski has to apologize former foreign minister and current MEP Radosław Sikorski (PO). It also obliged Kaczyński to pay Sikorski amount of PLN 708.480 (ca. EUR 150.000) to cover the costs of publishing the apology on web portal Onet.pl.
Kaczyński was punished for the following words from an interview for the Polish Press Agency and Onet.pl. “Vice-ambassador in Moscow Piotr Marciniak submitted a note on the extraterritoriality of the crash site (in Smolensk). Then he was ordered to withdraw it. It was a move made on the instructions of Radosław Sikorski, but was it without Tusk’s knowledge? A very serious provision of the penal code, diplomatic treason”. The Court of Appeal in Warsaw stated that the PiS leader violated the personal rights of the opposition MEP. The decision is final.
Poland & Germany
Federal Funds for Polish
The Bundestag has adopted a federal budget, which, for the first time, includes funding for teaching the Polish language. The move is an aftermath of Polish government’s criticism of Berlin and reduction of funding (by two-thirds) for teaching of German language for German minority in Poland (read more in the February issue).
Under the budget, EUR 5 million is allocated for teaching Polish in next two years, EUR 1 million in 2023 and EUR 2 million each in the following years. The money will go to the Polish Language Competence and Coordination Centre (KoKoPol) in St. Marienthal, Saxony, and will supplement funding provided by the states, about EUR 200 million in total, available for the teaching the Polish language.
This is seen as a gesture of good will. German authorities stress that such federal funding is provided because of special Polish-German relations. “Now it is important for the Polish side also to advocate multilingualism, including non-discriminatory support of German as a minority language”, Germany’s ambassador to Poland, Thomas Bagger, tweeted. Comments of the Polish minister are not known.
Electoral Law against the German Minority
United Poland, a junior coalition partner in the Polish government, has submitted a bill to end the arrangement under which the Polish German minority receives representation in the Sejm.
In Polish electoral law there is a general provision that exempts electoral committees representing recognized ethnic minorities from the normal requirement of needing to receive at least 5% of votes nationwide to enter the lower chamber of the parliament. Currently, there is one MP elected because of this provision.
“In our opinion, this privilege violates the constitution, violates equality before the law”, commented Janusz Kowalski, an MP of United Poland. “There can be no consent for the fact that in the EU the rule of law, which the Germans talk about so often, should be so brazenly violated by the Germans”, he added. “Poland can no longer tolerate a situation where in Germany Poles are treated as some kind of immigrants, and in Poland a [German] minority is being financed. Moreover, a German MP sits in the parliament…[but] there are no Poles in the German parliament”, concluded deputy climate minister Jacek Ozdoba.
Such initiative only confirms that Germany has been chosen as main enemy before the 2023 general elections. It also confirms that United Poland wants to position itself as main anti-European, nationalistic force within the government, building support among far right electorate in case Jarosław Kaczyński decides to kick Zbigniew Ziobro out of the coalition. Ziobro is justice minister, main internal enemy of prime minister Morawicki and the biggest obstacle on the way to agreement between Warsaw and Brussels about the rule of law and the recovery fund.
Lady Moist and Drama
Recently appointed director of the Warsaw Drama Theater (Teatr Dramatyczny) Monika Strzępka has been fired by the governor of Mazovia – representative of the government in the region - Konstanty Radziwiłł (PiS). The reason for the dismissal was Strzępka’s approval for installment of the sculpture of golden vagina called “Lady Moist” by artist Iwona Demko in an effort to promote feminism. The sculpture was placed in the theatre on August 31st in celebration of Strzępka’s appointment. Strzępka had also openly commented on a variety of political issues, including stating her public support of the pro-abortion protests and LGBTQI activists.
Radziwiłł called it “demeaning for women to reduce femininity to a single, sexual sphere of human life”. 'It is fair to note that the perception of women is similarly distorted by the porn industry. (…) Ignoring the vast wealth of roles in society that a woman can perform, pornography reduces femininity to a purely biological aspect, which boils down to satisfying sexual needs”, he added.
Deputy mayor of Warsaw Aldona Machnowska-Góra called the decision ‘bizzare’ accusing the governor of censorship. Warsaw municipality announced they will appeal from the decision.
Highly Unethical Sale
Polish ministry of culture have condemned a decision by a German auction house to sell a painting by Wassily Kandinsky, that was stolen from Warsaw's National Museum in 1984 (it still has the museum’s seal) as scandalous. Before the auction, Polish ministry of culture sent a request to Warsaw police to register the painting in Interpol's stolen artworks database.
Grisebach auction house firstly refused to stop the auction causing outrage in Poland. Polish consul in Berlin was present during the auction but did not manage to stop it (the painting was sold for EUR 387.500). Poland’s deputy prime minister and minister of culture tweeted: "The German auction house acted like a fence for stolen goods", Poland's deputy prime minister and culture minister, Piotr Glinski, tweeted. Eventually, Grisebach changed its mind and suspended the finalization of the sale. Polish authorities declared they would take legal steps to try to bring the painting back to Warsaw, describing the behavior of the auction house as "highly unethical and contrary to the standards that should apply on the international art market".
Untitled (1928) was acquired at auction by Warsaw's National Museum in 1982 from a private collection. In 1984, the work was presented at the exhibition Concepts of Space in Contemporary Art, from where it was stolen. One year later, the International Foundation for Art Research published in a stolen art report that the painting was taken from the museum.
Sexual Harassment in Tennis Association
Katarzyna Kotula, MP of the New Left, publicly accused Mirosław Skrzypczyński, the president of the Polish Tennis Association (PZT), of sexual harassment. According to the politician and former tennis player, she was harassed more than a dozen times when she was 14 years old. Kotula also said that she knows that there were more victims and she is in contact with some of them. Polish tennis star Iga Świątek wrote on Twitter that "governing bodies should determine what happened and I hope they will take care of this case". Another payer Hybert Hurkacz added that he supported “all women and all victims of abuse”.
“I have been the victim of baseless accusations and I intend to prove it in court”, Skrzypczyński commented. However, he resigned from being the president of PZT, but he stayed in the board of the organization. The latter decision caused outrage in Poland. The PZT tried to explain that it is only until a special investigation committee presents its conclusions, but it didn’t meet with much understanding from the public opinion. Skrzypczyński was forced to resign from all positions within the PZT.
Deputy Prime Minister Jacek Sasin, minister of State Assets responsible for state-controlled companies (PZT is sponsored by one of them), said he was “shaken” by the allegations and was not recommending further financing of the association.
Milestones Must Be Met in Full
On November 5th, The European Commission received Poland's official request to suspend the penalties for not adhering to the interim measures imposed by the European Court of Justice, in relation to the country's disciplinary rules for judges (EUR 1 million a day). This is the another request sent from Warsaw in that regard. After having received the first one in June, the European Commission replied that changes introduced to the Polish law were insufficient to stop the imposition of the penalties, thus keeping the procedure effective.
Three days later, new Polish minister for European affairs Szymon Szynkowski vel Sęk went to Brussels to discuss unblocking of funds from the Recovery Fund. "We could say it was a productive, intensive day during which I wanted to take a closer look at the concerns still held by the EC, because of which the Commission hasn't yet declared readiness to financial implementation of the National Recovery Plan. I think I have alleviated some of these concerns", he summarized his trip.
On the other side, the main collocutor of Szynkowski vel Sęk, commissioner Vera Jourova, stressed that "the milestones, agreed with the Polish government, have to be met in full", in particular regarding the judiciary. She stressed that the Commission is ready to support Poland in this process.
Forecast for Poland
In the latest "Economic Outlook" report, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) forecasts that Polish GDP in 2023 will increase by 0,9% and in 2024 by 2,4%, while inflation next year will be at 10,8%. Poland's general government deficit should reach 4,9% in 2023, and at 4% in 2024.
According to the report, "[i]nflation will fall as retail energy price growth slows and tighter monetary policy takes effect, but will remain at 6,6% in 2024, above the central bank’s target range. Rising spare capacity will exert downward pressure on inflation while the economy recovers, partly driven by EU funds".
OECD also underlines that "[f]urther escalation of the war would increase uncertainty, exacerbate inflation and strain public finances. Additional disruptions to energy supply could hit output and trade. Continued disagreements on strengthening the judiciary could further delay the disbursement of EU Recovery and Resilience Facility funds".
In November the inflation dropped to 17,4% y/y from 17,9% in October, according to Statistics Poland (GUS).
Orlen Selling Its Assets
Polish state-owned oil giant PKN Orlen has finalised three transactions with Saudi Arbian Aramco involving refining, wholesale and plane fuel businesses, following Orlen’s merger with Grupa Lotos. The joint development agreement of Orlen, Aramco and Sabic for the potential Gdańsk project was signed. Aramco is to supply almost 45% of Orlen’s crude oil requirement under the agreement.
As part of the transaction, first announced in the beginning of the year, Orlen has retained a 70% stake in a 210.000 barrels-per-day refinery in Gdańsk, with Aramco acquiring equity stakes of 30% in the refinery as well as 100% in a wholesale; and 50% in a plane fuel marketing joint venture with BP Europa SE that operates in seven airports in Poland. “These transactions are of strategic importance in further strengthening energy supplies, not only in Poland but for the entire region”, said Orlen’s CEO Daniel Obajtek.
Orlen has also signed a USD 610 million deal with Hungarian MOL for the sale of the Grupa Lotos branch Lotos Paliwa (Lotos Fuels), which runs a network of petrol stations. Both parties also signed an eight-year fuel sales deal and a branding licence agreement for Lotos petrol stations.
Murderer of the Anti-Apartheid Hero Stabbed
Janusz Waluś, a Polish immigrant in South Africa, who was sentenced for life after he had murdered a anti-apartheid hero Chris Hani in 1993, was ordered to release by a high court. Shortly before he was to leave the prison he was stabbed and send to hospital.
Hani was regarded as the most popular politician after Nelson Mandela, and Waluś was a member of a radical group that was opposing the end of apartheid. Waluś murdered Hani in front of his house by shooting him at point-blank range. He was originally sentenced to death, which was later changed into life sentence. For many years South African government and the Hani family opposed all Waluś’s attempts to regain his freedom. In 2017, his South African citizenship was revoked. Some commentators called for extradition of Waluś to eliminate chances of civil unrest.
Historic Success in Qatar (and Insufficiency)
In Qatar, the Polish national team advanced to the playoffs from second place in the group with teams from Argentina, Mexico and Saudi Arabia. Poland progressed to the knockout stages of the World Cup for the first time in 36 years.
Poland, captained by Robert Lewandowski and coached by Czesław Michniewicz, tied 0-0 with Mexico, beat Saudi Arabia 2-0 and lost 0-2 to Argentina. In the next phase France beat Poland 3-1. Poland's Robert Lewandowski managed a consolation goal through a penalty in the 99th minute.
When players came back home, it became public that Mateusz Morawiecki had promised the team a bonus of PLN 30 million (EUR 6,4 million) after they progressed to the knockout stages of the tournament. It was widely criticized by opposition MPs and commentators amid Poland's economic crisis. Morawiecki abandoned the promise about the bonus and his spokesman announced that extra funds will be offered for training of young footballers.
Poland finished third in the 1974 World Cup in West Germany and were also third in Spain in 1982.
IBRiS, 7-8 December
Poland 2050 9,2%