Central Europe Review: politics, society and culture in Central and Eastern Europe
Vol 2, No 7
21 February 2000

Last Week in Poland C E N T R A L   E U R O P E A N   N E W S:
Last Week in Poland
News from Poland since 14 Febraruy 2000

Compiled by Joanna Rohozińska
and Donosy-English

It seems that allusions to Soviet times are enjoying a new wave of popularity. While last week former President Lech Wałęsa made allusions to Stalin and this week Samoobrona (Self-Defense) leader Andrzej Lepper likened the European Union to a kolkhoz. Speaking on behalf of his organisation Lepper stated that they feel the EU treats Poland like a market for its products rather than as a partner. He stated that "the EU is another kolkhoz - one had its headquarters in Moscow, the second has its headquarters in Brussels. Nothing has changed." He went on to say that Samoobrona has already sent a letter to Prime Minister Jerzy Bużek demanding "firm decisions [to] improve the situation in agriculture" be taken by the government and are currently waiting for a response. Lepper added that should the response and government decisions not satisfy the farmers, they will resort to protest actions aimed at forcing early parliamentary elections.

Finally, there may be an end to the search for a head for the news IPN National Remembrance Institute. The ruling Solidarity Elections Action(AWS)has nominated Wojciech Roszkowski and early murmurings indicate that the candidate may win the support of the IPN's council, the Polish Peasants Party (PSL) and junior coalition partner the Freedom Union (UW). An SLD representative stated that his party may also support the nomination if the candidate supports amending the IPN Act. No need to get over-optimistic quite yet, however, as the PSL chairman already criticised the AWS for not holding negotiations about the nominee before announcing his candidature. The UW chimed in that although they accept Roszkowski, it still intends to propose Bogdan Borusewicz as its own candidate. Both parties have also stated that they will also nominate candidates for the IPN's deputy chair position.

A leap into the 21st century and a valuable resource for researchers as the Sejm is now available online at http://www.sejm.gov.pl/. The site is one stop shopping and includes legislation, bills, publications, information on deputies and parties, and RealAudio transmissions of Sejm debates. Unfortunately, most of the service is only (so far) available in Polish. Zbigniew Jabłonski, director of the Information Technology Center at the Sejm, said that the "Sejm's tasks include providing comprehensive information about its work and general accessibility to the legislative process for the public." The Sejm's Internet service started as a local communications system to help the paper pushers sort through their piles of paper. The first part of the site (and the only part available in English) provides general information including the history of the Sejm, information about the leadership, parliamentary committees, deputies, parties, and the text of the constitution.

Some Sejm committees offer open forums for the exchange of opinions about their work, and all deputies are accessible via individual e-mail addresses. The other component (only in Polish) includes five databases, consisting of a database of stenographic minutes from Sejm sessions, including records starting from 1991, and is updated daily. It also shows individual deputies' voting records as well as the overall results. Committee session minutes and results are also available at a few days delay. There is a database containing descriptions of legislative procedures as well as deputies' questions, and statements. The most recent and interesting addition includes one for Sejm publications and another for the Internet Information System on the State of Law. It includes all legal acts published since 1918, previously only available in print in Dziennik Ustaw (laws journal) and the official gazette Monitor Polski. This has a search engine where users can browse through every piece of legislation since 1918; of approximately 80,000 legislative acts, 17,000 are still currently binding.

A witness testifying in the trial of a band of suspected truck thieves will be the first in Poland to be granted immunity in exchange for testimony. In a heavily guarded district court building in Poznań (the building was protected by three explosive detectors, surrounding streets were closed to traffic and dozens of policemen, including snipers from anti-terrorist units, patrolled the streets and nearby rooftops - so much for subtlety) a new chapter in Polish legal history began. The unknown witness will have to face his former accomplices, members of Jacek N's. (aka Gruby - of Fat-guy gang). Poznań prosecutor Siemaszko said that without the witness immunity program, the fight against organized crime would be impossible. Work on the program started in 1993, as gangland crime became a huge problem for police.

However, the leader of a gang or the actual perpetrator of a killing cannot be granted immunity. In this landmark case the witness began his cooperation by claiming that the robbery of a German truck transporting clothing from Odessa to Berlin was faked, and the driver was an accomplice. "I am not sorry I'm not handling this case," said Judge Barbara Piwnik, who has presided over several cases against well-known Polish gangsters and believes it may take time to iron out the bugs in the program. Both Piwnik and Siemaszko believe the programme should be given a chance to work. As Piwnik states, "we are dealing with an experiment; the institution of the Crown's witness was introduced by lex specialis (special law) for three years. I hope that during this period we will have enough experience to allow the legislators to decide either to recall the institution or to introduce it into the penal code." She also noted that time is running out as the experimental period began on 1 September 1998, and this is the first case to make use of the program.

Prime Minster Jerzy Bużek proposed a fast parliamentary track to speed up approval of legislation needed for EU membership. Bużek warned that unless legislators worked faster to bring Polish laws up to EU standards, Poland could miss its goal of joining the union at the start of 2003. EU officials have already made it clear that 2004 or 2005 are really more realistic enlargement dates, but all six applicants who started membership talks last year have stuck to the original 2003 target. Bużek told the Sejm: "I propose an agreement between the government and the leaderships of the lower house and the senate, a trilateral deal, which would make the legislative process needed for EU integration more efficient." According to the European Commission's annual report from last year, Poland's EU accession talks could be hampered by failure to pass EU-compatible laws and a lack of mechanisms to implement them.

Obviously, this has caused some concern as Bużek vowed that his centre-right government would use the rest of its term in office to focus on drafting laws that are indispensable for EU entry. "The government plans to limit the number of bills unrelated to EU integration and concentrate on those needed for entry," he said. Parliament should pass about 150 bills needed for EU entry, 50 of which the cabinet has already approved. The coalition government - if it manages to hold out - is supposed to remain in office until late 2001. All polls are showing that they will more than likely be replaced by the leftist opposition. However, the SLD has already pledged help in passing EU-related bills. "The SLD firmly backs EU integration which is advantageous for Poland," said SLD senior deputy Jozef Oleksy. Bużek confirmed that Poland wanted its fragmented and often outmoded agriculture to be fully embraced by the EU's farm subsidy system from the moment the country joins. For the moment, Brussels officials are crying poverty and have ruled out granting Polish farmers direct payments, saying that the EU budget cannot afford it.

According to a recent poll conducted by Public Opinion Polling Centre (CBOS), some 64 per cent of Poles have no interest in debates over Poland's 50-year Communist past. Surprisingly, this view is shared by adherents of the SLD as well as by the majority of potential voters for the political successors of the original Solidarity movement: namely the co-ruling AWS and UW. Judging the communist era as a whole, 44 per cent stated that they found the former system quite positive while 47 per cent took the complete opposite view.

In light of this, the continuing existence of the Lustration Court seems a bit of a mystery. This week the Supreme Administration Court upheld the Lustration Court's ruling that Tadeusz Matyjek, an SLD parliamentary deputy, is indeed a "lustration liar." The court found that Matyjek was a secret collaborator of the Security Service from 1969-1975 and had concealed this fact in his lustration statement. Under the Lustration Law, Matyjek will now lose his parliamentary seat and be barred from holding public posts for ten years. Matyjek called the verdict a "discredit to the court" and a "witch-hunt," maintaining that he had not been a collaborator but had had "private contacts" with security service officers. Despite his protests, the verdict is legally binding, and cannot be appealed against, and Matyjek gave up his parliamentary mandate.

More good neighbourly relations this week as Warsaw and Minsk began to squabble over the detention and subsequent deportation of ten Belarusians. Polish Foreign Ministry spokesman Paweł Dobrowołski made it clear that the deportation of 10 Belarusians this week was an administrative decision and not prompted by any underlying political motives. Dobrowołski was responding to a note from the Belarusian Foreign Ministry that was protesting the detention of 47 Belarusian citizens in Giżycko in northeastern Poland. The Belarusian officials charged that the Polish authorities arrested the Belarusians under the pretext of checking their documents and detained them for 12 hours at a police station. The Polish Border Guard says it had released 37 of the detained Belarusians immediately after checking their documents. The unfortunate remaining ten Belarusians, along with two Russians and two Lithuanians, were all chucked out for having been found to be engaging in illegal trade. Rather ironic that Minsk itself is complaining of the mistreatment of its citizens - perhaps the Poles simply weren't doing it as well.

Compiled by Joanna Rohozińska and Donosy-English, 20 January 2000

SOURCES

Gazeta Wyborcza

Prawo i Gospodarka

Zycie Warszawy

Rzeczpospolita

Polska Agencja Prasowa


News from Donosy's Week in Poland appears in Central Europe Review with the kind permission of Donosy-English:
DONOSY LIBERAL DIGEST: ISSN 0867-6860
Donosy-Polish Editors: Lena Bialkowska (Editor-in-Chief), Michal Jankowski, Michal Pawlak, Ksawery Stojda (founder)
Copyright (c) 1999
Donosy-English editors and translators: Lidia Trojanowska and Lawrence Schofer
Circulation: Wojtek Bogusz
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