From Poland with Love – September
Topic of the Month
PLN 6.220.609.000.000 of Reparations
For many years already, PiS have been announcing that it will reopen talks about WWII recuperation with Berlin. A special investigation committee lead by a PiS MP Arkadiusz Mularczyk was established but nothing has happened. Finally, on September 1st – on the 83rd anniversary of the attack of the Third Reich on Poland - a report was published. The committee has pegged the amount at PLN 6,220,609,000,000 or ca.1.3 trillion euros (3 times the federal budget of Germany).
The reparations demand includes lives of people killed during the war, also cases of Jews murdered during the Holocaust. The amount includes German reparations to victims' families as well as a solution to the issue of looted artworks, archives and bank deposits. Jarosław Kaczynski commented that the sum was arrived at using a "conservative" method and that Poland could demand much more.
Berlin has repeatedly stated that it sees no reason for any payments, since in 1953 Poland officially waived the reparations due. Warsaw claims the 1953 agreement was signed in violation under pressure from the Soviet Union and only covered the defunct German Democratic Republic and the Polish People’s Republic, which were not sovereign nor free.
PiS prepared a trap for the opposition drafting a Sejm resolution about the recuperations. Senate Speaker Tomasz Grodzki (Civic Coalition) said anti-German rhetoric was shaping up to be the PiS’s mantra for the upcoming election — that voting against the ruling party was voting against Poland’s national interests. In other words, the opposition had a choice of supporting the controversial document or reject and be criticized for the entire election period (until Autumn 2023) for acting against the financial interest of Poles. Shortly before the vote, the Civic Coalition caucus said that it would support the resolution if it includes also recuperations from Russia. PiS was disoriented and Arkadiusz Mularczyk said it makes no sense to combine these two topic, and that there is no calculation about damages by the USSR. Adding Russia to the document diluted the whole thing.
The Sejm eventually adopted the text calling to receive compensation (the wording was changed from ‘recuperation’ last minute) from Germany for the damage caused to the republic during WWII. It “calls on the German government to take unconditional political, historical, legal and financial responsibility for all the damage caused to Poland and its citizens as a result of the Second World War unleashed by the Third German Reich”. “The German aggression, the German occupation of Poland and the systematic genocide caused a lot of harm, suffering, as well as material and non-material losses. The cruelties of the German occupation towards people took various forms: enslavement, forced labor, child theft, mutilation, rape and murder of children, men and women – citizens of Poland. The traces of genocide and war crimes have been destroyed”, the document reads. And the following sentence was added to the original version drafted by PiS: “Poland has never received adequate financial compensation and compensation for material and non-material losses suffered by the Polish state during the Second World War as a result of the aggression of the USSR “.
418 deputies voted for the adoption of the resolution, four were against, 15 abstained, 22 did not participate in the vote.
The official representative of the Russian Foreign Ministry, Maria Zakharova, called the Polish statements that Warsaw has the right to reparations from Russia “bullshit”.
PiS is well aware that Poland will not receive a single euro from Germany. It uses the topic of recuperations to strengthen its anti-German message, a fundamental topic in its newest campaign strategy. In a nutshell: “Germany try to dominate Europe, subordinate smaller states and Donald Tusk is a German puppet”. It is yet another step to install disgust for Europe and benefit from hard nationalism.
Poland & Ukraine
- Andrzej Duda made his speech during the General Debate of the United Nations General Assembly. “The war has been going on for seven months, and Russia is not limiting itself to fighting the Ukrainian army, with whom they are losing”, he said. “It is killing civilians or forcibly relocating them to its territory. It is destroying cities, monuments, schools, kindergartens, hospitals”, he added. “This war, like all other conflicts going on in the world today, must be lost by the aggressor, and in this case it is the Russian state. More than that: the aggressor has already lost, it is failing to subdue a free nation, to break its spirit, to disperse its army”, Duda concluded.
- Polish authorities, concerned about fighting around Europe's biggest nuclear power plant in Zaporizhzhia, have distributed iodine tablets to regional fire departments to give to people in the event of radioactive exposure.
- Poland has banned Russian citizens from entering the country via land, air and sea. Diplomats, transport drivers, residence permit holders and dissidents are exempt from the ban. Also asylum seekers and opponents of Putin’s regime are also allowed to enter Poland. “Countries bordering Russia are increasingly concerned about the significant and growing influx of Russian citizens across our borders into the European Union and the Schengen area. We believe that this is becoming a serious threat to our public security and to the Schengen area as a whole,” the prime ministers wrote in a statement”, wrote the prime ministers of Poland and the Baltic states in a common statement.
- Russia's Ambassador to Poland Sergey Andreev was summoned to ministry of foreign affairs in Warsaw. The ministry expressed Poland's standpoint regarding the pseudo-referenda carried by Russians in Ukrainian regions of Kherson, Donetsk, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia and attempts to incorporate them into Russia. "Today's desperate action by the Kremlin is a defeat for those who naively believed in a compromise with RUS", Andrzej Duda commented the pseudo-referendum.
- Robert Lewandowski will show his support for Ukraine by taking an armband in the blue-yellow flag colors to the World Cup in November. The armband was a gift from Andriy Shevchenko, the 2004 Ballon d'Or winner when a standout striker with AC Milan. Lewandowski first showed his opposition to the Russian military invasion of Ukraine within days of it starting in February. He called for Poland to boycott playing Russia in a World Cup qualifying game.
Highest Increase of Minimum Wage
PiS government is planning to increase the minimum wage twice next year and by more than previously planned. According to the government proposal, Poland's minimum monthly wage will go up next year to PLN 3.383 (ca. EUR 718), and the minimum hourly wage will rise to PLN 22,10 (ca. EUR 4.7). What is more, another minimum wage raise to PLN 3.450 (ca. EUR 732) and a rise in hourly pay to PLN 22,50 (ca. EUR 4,8) is foreseen from July 1st. The proposal will discussed in the cabinet.
The hike is supposed to limit some of the consequences of the record high inflation (currently 17% y/y) and help PiS before the general elections in autumn next year. The opposition criticizes the plan calling it irresponsible and claiming that it will accelerate the inflation even more.
The current minimum wage in Poland is PLN 3,010 (ca. EUR 641).
Poland & Germany
Polish Oil for Germany
Poland will supply Germany with its surplus of crude oil, after Berlin took control of a refinery in Schwedt. Poland had communicated already earlier this year that it could assist Germany by supplying oil under one condition: no Russian presence in Schwedt (Russian Rosneft had over 54% stake via a subsidiary).
The Schwedt refinery near the Polish border supplies with fuel much of eastern Germany, including Berlin. It currently gets its oil via the Druzhba pipeline directly from Russia, a route that will be closed once the embargo takes effect in December. Berlin needs Polish infrastructure, including the port in Gdańsk, to secure enough oil for the refinery. In theory, the biggest Polish port can supply of 36 million tons of oil a year, with two Polish refineries using 27 million tons.
It is commented that Polish state oil giant PKN Orlen is interested in buying a controlling stake in Schwedt. “We are monitoring the situation in the region”, PKN Orlen comments. Also ministries from both countries refuse to confirm such scenario.
Baltic Channel for True Independence
Polish government has completed one of its mega-projects. On the 83th anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Poland during World War II they opened a canal that connects the Baltic Sea with the Vistula Lagoon. The canal cuts across the Vistula Spit to allow to sail to Elbląg and smaller ports of the lagoon without obtaining authorization to travel through Russia’s Strait of Pilawa. It also shortens, for example, the Gdańsk-Elbląg route by some 100 kilometers. “The idea was to have this waterway opened and not to have to ask permission anymore from a country that is not friendly and whose authorities do not hesitate to attack and subdue others”, stressed Andrzej Duda. Jaroslaw Kaczyński said the canal shows that “Poland is a truly independent, sovereign and strong nation that matters. “
The scope of work included a 1,3km navigation channel with width varying from 25m to 120m; two breakwaters, with lengths of 1km and 568m; two rotating steel bridges; buildings; and a new road system. With the creation of the canal, Maritime Office of Gdańsk is anticipating increased activity at the port of Elbląg which would boost the local economy (in this important region before the 2023 elections). Vessels with a draught of up to 4,5m, a length up to 100m and a width of up to 20m as well as barges up to 180m are able to navigate through the new channel.
Playing with Elections
The PiS majority in the Sejm decided to postpone local elections due in autumn 2023 until spring 2024. They claim it is a necessary organizational measure as it is not possible to efficiently conduct two different votes in a short period - parliamentary elections are due to take place in a year from now.
The opposition rejects PiS’s argumentation stressing that it’s not legal to change law on elections so close before the end of the term. They also remind that the new date of local elections will be very close to the European Parliament ones.
Opposition politicians believe that the only reason for the proposed change is Kaczyński’s fear about the election result. It is known and widely commented in national media that PiS loses all prestigious races in big cities, and party leaders are afraid that electoral victories on local level would empower democratic forces in the campaign before general elections.
The proposal was also criticized by experts of the influencial Stefan Batory Foundation, who wrote in a statement: “Changes to election rules during the term of office, introduced in haste, without consultation or attempts to build broad party consensus, undermine citizens’ confidence in the electoral process”.
PiS has already prolonged the term of local and regional authorities from 4 to 5 years. With the newest changes it would be 5,5 years. Local and regional politicians are divided. Some criticize the proposal, but some are in favor. The latter group is driven by different arguments, from very egoistic (longer term, longer office and related benefits) to rational ones (elections in spring mean that new majorities can design their own budget for next year).
US Military Assistance for Poland
The US Congress has approved USD 288,6 million of military aid. This funding makes Poland one of the largest recipients of Foreign Military Assistance outside of Ukraine and is intended to build the capacity to deter and defend against the increased threat from Russia.
These funds will speed the backfill of capabilities Poland has been able to provide from its own stocks to add to Ukraine’s defense, including main battle tanks. This financing is part of a comprehensive package, announced on September 8, of Foreign Military Financing to bolster the security of Ukraine and 17 of its neighbors, which are potentially at risk of future Russian aggression.
"We believe that deterrence is the essence of preventing war and ensuring peace", Polish minister of foreign affairs Zbigniew Rau told reporters after talks in Washington with US house speaker Nancy Pelosi. US Ambassador to Poland Mark Brzezinski tweeted that Poland "has been providing military and humanitarian support for Ukraine with all its might since the beginning of the war" and "is an example to follow for the whole world."
Poland Will Sue the Commission in ECJ
Polish deputy minister of foreign affairs Marcin Przydacz said that Poland will file a complaint against the European Commission before the European Court of Justice (ECJ) if it continues to block funds from the Recovery and Resilience Facility destined to Poland.
Przydacz underlined that Poland will implement the investments featured in the national recovery plan regardless of whether the European Commission disbursed the first payment from the special post-Covid programme. Poland will send the bills to Brussels and will wait for reimbursements.
He added that if PiS wins the 2023 parliamentary election, European Ursula von der Leyen “will lose interest in meddling in Polish politics”.
Poland Violated Rights of a Pop Star
According to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), a Warsaw court violated the rights of Dorota Rabczewska, a Polish pop star, when it prosecuted her for "offending religious sentiment". Rabczewska, commonly known as Doda, was fined PLN 5.000 (ca. EUR 1.150) in 2009 after she said in that she followed science more than "incredible [biblical] stories" written by "a person stoned on wine and weed". Shortly after an interview with these statements was published, she was sued by two people and prosecuted for offending their religious views, which is punishable under the Polish penal code.
Consequently, Rabczewska filed a complaint with the ECHR after a previous appeal failed at Poland’s politicized Constitutional Court. The Strasbourg court ruled in favor of the celebrity, stressing that her statement was covered by her fundamental right to express herself freely. Judges said that Doda’s conviction for blasphemy was contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights. They declared that the Polish court did not have sufficient grounds to limit the singer’s expression. Additionally, the ECHR ordered the Polish authorities to pay her EUR 10.000 in damages.
The Polish Oscar committee decided that the film EO directed by Jerzy Skolimowski will be the national candidate for an Oscar. Skolimowski’s new film premiered at the Cannes International Film Festival, where it won three awards, including the Jury Prize. “EO is emotional, great cinema, it moves and makes you reflect deeply on the condition of the modern world”, said the president of the selection committee.
The title character is a donkey which performs in a circus with a young female artist. The girl takes care of the animal receiving its unconditional love in return. After a protest by an animal rights’ group, the bailiffs enter the circus and the two end up having to separate. The donkey ends up changing owner several times and traveling all the way from Poland to Italy (where he meets a character played by Isabelle Huppert). EO experiences cruelty and kindness from people in equal measure.
The film is a strong voice in favor of animal rights. “In today's world, drastic shipments of Polish horse meat to Italy take place. Horses are transported alive, tightly packed in trucks, in totally inhumane conditions, and some of them die during this transport. The protagonist of my film is saved in Italy from this transport and even experiences the happiest moments of his life, which, however, have a dramatic end. We want to move the viewer, and to make the film a protest against the cruelty that people have towards animals”, said Skolimowski earlier this year.
It is interesting, and unsettling for some commentators, that EO has not received a single award at the Gdynia Film Festival, the most important such event in Poland. This year the jury awarded its top prize of Golden Lion for Best Film to the Polish-British drama The Silent Twins by Agnieszka Smoczyńska. It is based on the lives of June and Jennifer Gibbons, real-life identical twins who grew up in Wales and became known as "the silent twins" because of their refusal to communicate with anyone but each other.
The Best Director Award went to Jacek Bławut for his war drama Eagle. The Last Patrol. The Platinum Lions Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Filip Bajon.
Ig Nobels for Ice Cream
A team of hematologists from Warsaw Medical University won Ig Nobel prize for their study on the use of ice cream in alleviating side effects of chemotherapy and radiotherapy. In lieu of the standard cryotherapy with ice cubes, they employed ice cream to fight off the side effect notorious for impairing the patient’s quality of life. Their study titled 'Ice-Cream Used as Cryotherapy During High-Dose Melphalan Conditioning Reduces Oral Mucositis After Autologous Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation' was published in the journal Scientific Reports.
For winning the Ig Nobel, the scientists were awarded 10 trillion Zimbabwean dollars, which are no longer a recognized legal tender. Ig Nobels are the humorous equivalent of the Nobel Prizes. They are awarded for scientific papers that "first make you laugh and then make you think" and for discoveries that "cannot or should not be repeated." Normally, the Ig Nobel ceremony is held in the Sanders Theatre at Harvard University, but this time, for the third time, because of the pandemic, everything took place online.
Iga Świątek took down world’s no. 5 Ons Jabeur in straight sets (6-2, 7-6) to win the first US Open women's final of her career. It is also her third grand slam victory, making her the youngest three-time winner since Maria Sharapova. Świątek won the French Open in both 2020 and earlier this year. “It's something I wasn't expecting. I'm proud, a little surprised, and just happy I was able to do it," she said.
Poland’s national basketball team became the biggest surprise of the EuroBasket tournament. The white-and-red team defeated defending champion Slovenia (with one of the NBA’s biggest stars, Luka Dončić) 90:87 in Berlin in the quarterfinals and advanced to the semifinals. This is the first promotion of the Polish team to the top four since 1971. The Polish hero of the match was Mateusz Ponitka, captain of the team, who scored a triple-double: 26 points, 16 rebounds and 10 assists.
“The players have balls the size of watermelons and hearts the size of a moon. I am very happy with this triumph", commented the winning game Igor Milicić, coach of the team. Unfortunately, France left no chance to Poland en route to EuroBasket 2022 final, dominating from the very beginning of the match until the very end to blow out Poland 95-54.
Polls & Trends
United Surveys for Wirtualna Polska, 23-25.09.2022
Civic Coalition 26,4%
Poland 2050 11,9%
Ibris for Plus Minus
How are the relations between Poland and Germany?
Very good 0,1%
Rather good 11,3%
Not good and not bad 36,8%
Rather bed 35,9%
Very bed 15,9%
70% of PiS and 53% of opposition voters sees the relations as bad or very bad.
What is your attitude towards Germans?
Very positive 18,7%
Rather positive 33,8%
Rather negative 8,7%
Very negative 8,3%
Germans have unregulated financial obligations towards Poland.
I fully agree 31,1%
I somehow agree 17,9%
I somehow disagree 14,6%
I fully disagree 20,5%
I don’t know/hard to say 15,9%