Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek's message to the agricultural sector was at least two-sided. While praising farmers' hard work at the harvest festival at the Jasna Góra national shrine (3 September) Buzek took the opportunity to point out increases in government spending on agriculture. He noted that the state had allocated "50 per cent more money from the budget than in previous years," adding that the government's emergency purchases of grain totalled some four million tons.
Buzek also took this opportunity to announce the government's recent adoption of the Pact for Agriculture and Rural Areas, which earmarks PLZ [Polish Zloty] 8 billion (USD 1.8 billion) to be spent on the sector. The message seemed to assure agricultural workers of the government's concern for their welfare on one hand, while tacitly letting farmers know not to expect (or demand) much more.
President Aleksander Kwaśniewski this week acknowledged that while Jerzy Buzek's cabinet may be rightfully proud of being the longest-serving government in the Third Polish Republic it must also recognise that it bears the brunt of responsibility for much political muddling over the past few years. At a re-election campaign meeting in Ciechanowiec, Kwaśniewski said "...this government must realise that it bears the greatest responsibility for successes, shortcomings, and first and foremost, for many an instance of arrogance, when it showed us bills that it thought would be successful but turned out to be nothing but a lot of wishful thinking."
Poland and Austria finally reached a formalised agreement regarding compensation to former Polish slave workers. The sum (a maximum of ATS [Austrian Schilling] 550 million (USD 40 million)) will be distributed among the 21,200 survivors who were forced to work for the Nazis on Austrian territory. The compensation break-downs as follows: former slave workers will get ATS 105,000, those forced to work at Nazi industrial enterprises - ATS 15,000 and those at agricultural enterprises will receive ATS 20,000.
More candidates mean more entertainment. AWS (Solidarity Electoral Action) leader Marian Krzaklewski, Samoobrona leader Andrzej Lepper and PPL (Polish Peasant Party) leader Jarosław Kalinowski were also busy campaigning in the countryside this week attending the same (previously mentioned) harvest festival at Jasna Góra. The recently signed Pact was the focus of both candidates.
Unsurprisingly, Krzaklewski held the same line as Buzek, stating "what is important [is that] by signing the Pact it will be possible to determine expenditure on the countryside and agriculture for several years ahead. This will give a greater sense of stability. For that reason, I will be striving in the Parliament to pass acts [and] plans for several years on the development of the countryside, which will enable the challenges of the future to be met."
Meanwhile, Lepper, who was recently released from prison, said that the Pact was an attempt by the government "to pull the wool over the farmers' eyes." He asserted that the pact was only a "slightly expanded" version of a rural development strategy that the government had adopted two years ago and that "has now been set aside." Lepper has continuously called for greater "government interventionism and profitable prices" for the agricultural sector and used this occasion to reiterate this point stating that action, not more documents, is what is needed.
Going one step further, Kalinowski asserted that Poland's farmers expect "real actions," not "more discussion about packages." But, at the same time, Kalinowski (squarely blaming the 1993-1997 leftist government) stated that one of the main reasons for the difficult situation in the countryside was the lack of appropriate legal regulations. Kalinowski said: "We did not succeed in getting it (an EU-modelled bill on family farms) through in the previous term of office, because those people in Poland who call themselves Europeans do not want to have a European agriculture in Poland." So he is calling for prompt action - on paper.
President Kwaśniewski did not make it to the festivities but instead visited Jelenia Góra where he was greeted by a banner reading "The mountains are telling you there'll be no second round." As if Kwaśniewski needed a confidence boost, but he certainly must of felt a twinge when an impressive 20,000 people, out of a population of 100,000, attended his campaign rally.
Lech Wałęsa said in an interview with the Berlin-based Tagesspiegel that "for me, it's not about winning... Most politicians think in election terms, not on a longer time-scale... I want to show what's wrong and reshape the landscape." He also criticised Marian Krzaklewski's presidential bid saying, "He is gambling with our success. He should concentrate on the [trade] union."
The latest in a series of ice-breakers, Poles and Russians gathered in Tver to open a state memorial complex at Mednoe, commemorating the 6313 Poles and more than 9000 Russians who were killed by the NKVD during the second world war. Russian Duma Deputy Chairman Vladimir Lukin said the memorial will have a "salutary" effect on ties because "immortalising the perished Polish servicemen completes a heavy and tragic process of disclosing the truth."
Prime Minister Buzek was also in attendance and commented that the murders revealed "the tragedy and deviltry of communism-tear the man from his beliefs and faith, from his consciousness which tells everyone what's good and what's bad." He went on to say "Let the suffering and the graves spread all over Russia become our joint memory and a warning for future generations against treason and crime." The site is one of several mass graves in Russia and Ukraine that hold the bodies of some 22,000 Poles, mainly well-educated, including reserve officers, border guards, policemen and civil servants.
Meanwhile, Leon Kieres, head of the National Remembrance Institute, mentioned the possibility of launching a formal investigation into the murder of the 22,000 Polish officers in the camps of Ostashkov, Katyn, Mednoe and Kharkiv.
Lost and found
Polish Roman Catholic Bishop Andrzej Śliwiński, who had been declared missing last Thursday by church officials, later turned up when he failed to catch his connecting flight to Siberia at Sheremetyevo airport. He appeared three days later in a Moscow hotel where he had checked in after feeling ill. In a telephone interview, he remarked that he had no idea anyone had missed him, was still feeling ill.
Joanna Rohozińska, 9 September 2000
- Archive of Polish news reviews
- Archived articles on Poland
- Buy English-language books on Central Europe through CER
- Return to CER front page