|View today's updated headlines from Poland|
The ailing Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS) coalition has been granted a temporary reprieve from final dissolution—of sorts. Parliamentary speaker Maciej Plażynski managed to convince two of the four coalition members, the Polish Party of Christian Democrats (PPChD) and the Conservative Peasant Party (SKL), to join together to create the Federation AWS (FAWS) as an alternative to the AWS. Against all expectations, the Christian National Union (ZChN) did not sign up.
Plażynski, who is heading the FAWS, commented "Let's not scare the people that this [signifies] disintegration; this is [only] the beginning of changes [in the AWS]."
Marian Krzaklewski, leader of both the AWS its largest member party, AWS Social Movement (RS AWS), assured anybody who would listen (perhaps including himself) that this move does not signal the disintegration of the AWS. After weeks of negotiations member parties were not able to reach an agreement on one common federation and the divisions of power.
Differences between SKL, PPChD, ZChN on one side and RS AWS and the Solidarity trade union on the other, as well as Krzaklewski's steadfast refusal to step aside as leader, precluded members from coming to an amicable agreement.
Foreign Minister Władysław Bartoszewski told the national daily Gazeta Wyborcza that unless the cabinet's 2001 budget draft upped the amount allocated to his ministry he would be unable to guarantee that it could fulfill its role. Later the same day, a Foreign Ministry spokesman confirmed, "The minister is seeking a larger budget for his ministry," but added that the minister's statement was not a threat to resign.
Meanwhile, General Czesław Piatas, the army chief of staff, voiced his surprise "that [the] government declared the defense budget at 2.1 per cent [of GDP] in June and then cut it to below 2 per cent in September."
Ignoring the grumbling and pressure over its unpopular belt-tightening plans, the government worked furiously to meet the Wednesday deadline to submit its 2001 budget to parliament. Government and parliamentary officials acknowledged that passing the budget through parliament is going to be difficult, although it could squeak through if some political wheeling and dealing comes to fruition.
Approval of the budget draft hinges on getting backing from former coalition partner Freedom Union (UW). The UW remained noncommittal and pragmatic as ever, saying it would support the bill if it is economically sound. But insiders say the real story isn't so squeaky clean and that the UW would back the budget in return for AWS's help to ease their leader Leszek Balcerowicz (who announced this week his intention not to run for leadership of the UW again at the party's December congress) into the top central bank position.
Regardless, they did manage to submit it with the key economic deficit reduced to 1.6 per cent of GDP from the 2.3 per cent expected in 2000. This remained consistent with the Finance Ministry's earlier plans, which stated that only tighter fiscal policies will make economic growth sustainable and prevent domestic demand from fuelling inflation and the current account deficit.
The budget optimistically forecasts that the economy will grow by 5.1 per cent next year, compared with 5.0 per cent anticipated for 2000. Analysts have said that the hard line on public finances hinges on whether some bills, aimed at boosting revenue and lowering spending, manage to pass.
Of course, aside from the continued economic health and prosperity of the county, surely utmost in the minds of the government, the ruling AWS coalition is also fighting for its primacy. If their budget fails to pass an early election is likely to be called—one that the AWS is poised to lose.
In Katowice, Independence Day (11 November), was marred by some 400 members of nationalist organisations marching and chanting anti-Semitic and anti-European slogans. These best sons of the nation burned Israeli and EU flags at the city's monument to the Silesian Insurgents. A city official told PAP that the march was organised by the No To Europe Association, and added that the authorities saw no reason to ban the demonstration.
Prosecutors in the city are currently investigating to determine whether the rally violated laws banning the public propagation of fascism and hate-mongering. The head of the No To Europe Association, Tadeusz Mazanek, told PAP that only some 30 per cent of participants in the rally were actually members of his organization and that the remainder were made up of skinheads led by Bogusław Rybicki, a founder of the National Party.
Giving it away...
The Treasury Ministry has filed suit to invalidate the 1999 agreement to sell 30 per cent of Poland's largest insurance company, PZU, to a Dutch-based consortium, Eureko and BIG Bank Gdański. The ministry said it wants to protect the stability of PZU and exercise its rights as a majority stockholder charging that Eureko misled the government about its intentions concerning PZU.
In an interesting twist, this move is being criticised by the opposition Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) and the UW who warn that the annulment of the privatisation deal may undermine the country's credibility among foreign investors.
Giving it back
The Sejm voted, by a margin of 228 to 190 with two abstentions, to reject a motion on holding a referendum on returning property confiscated under Communist rule. The referendum would have asked the population what they thought should be the form, scope and costs of the restitution of such property. The motion, spearheaded by the SLD and the Peasant Party (PPL), was intended to sharply limit compensation for nationalised property.
The failure of the motion means that the parliament is going to continue to plug away on the government's plan to offer former owners, or their direct descendants, compensation in bonds or property equal to 50 per cent of the seized property's value.
Joanna Rohozińska, 17 November 2000
- Archive of Poland news reviews
- View today's updated headlines from Poland
- Archived articles on Poland in CER
- Browse through the CER eBookstore for electronic books
- Buy English-language books on Central Europe through CER
- Return to CER front page
Today's updated headlines from Poland