Time has moved on
Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek spent a better part of his one-day trip to Brussels trying to convince
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"We don't expect lots of Poles to rush to Germany, Austria and other EU member states because we have a much better situation in Poland now than ten years ago," said Buzek. He pointed to the fact that some 700,000 Poles had returned over the past few years; far more than the number of those going the other way.
German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder has proposed a seven-year transition period before allowing the complete freedom of movement for new EU members. Buzek responded simply, "It is our belief there is no need for a transition period."
In a rather slow reaction to the hysteria prevailing elsewhere, Poland's veterinary service has finally started to test cattle for mad cow disease (bovine spongiform encephalopathy, BSE).
Chief veterinarian Andrzej Komorowski stated that the testing would include all imported slaughtered cattle, cows showing signs of neurological disorder and randomly-selected domestic cattle over 30 months old. There are no confirmed cases of BSE in Poland and the country has banned the import of cattle and beef, as well as animal feed containing ground meat and bone, following outbreaks of the disease.
There are also no confirmed cases of the human version of the disease Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD). Cow tagging and cattle registration have also been introduced in two regions, which is required under EU regulations.
Polish Television under fire
Representatives of Solidarity trade union head Marian Krzaklewski and PKN Orlen, Poland's largest oil concern, have announced their intention to sue Polish Television's main newscast staff for alleging that Orlen illegally financed Krzaklewski's presidential election campaign.
Krzaklewski's campaign team head, Wiesław Walendziak, maintained that the program deliberately disseminated false information and "made no attempt to verify it in any way."
The crux of the broadcasters allegations was that PKN backed Krzaklewski's failed presidential bid to the tune of PLZ 20 million (USD 4.87 million). While donations are allowed within reason, the point is that Krzaklewski did not mention this little contribution in his campaign's budget.
PKN Orlen's spokesman Ireneusz Wypych stated, "We were defamed by the report and we are planning to seek compensation of the same amount of 20 million zlotys." Adding that, "PKN has never financed any election campaigns and has no plans to do so in the future."
Tip of the iceberg?
However, some analysts posit that the accusations and counter-accusations are simply the public aspect of a much deeper dispute between the ruling rightists and their probable leftist successors. What is potentially at stake is control over some of Poland's most profitable firms that are still partly state-owned.
The left has been accusing the right-controlled government of trying to strengthen its control over the finances of state firms in order to help fund its re-election campaign. Conveniently, the left enjoys de facto control over public media. The suspicious point is that the report came as the state treasury shuffled its representatives on PKN Orlen's supervisory board.
The Treasury was heavily criticised earlier for changing the management of copper miner KGHM to one more politically compliant and for seizing control of insurer PZU.
A couple of the stars of the Freedom Union (UW), including former Premier Jan Krzysztof Bielecki, Jacek Merkel, and Warsaw Mayor Pawel Piskorski, have bailed to join the new "political initiative" launched by Maciej Plazynski, Donald Tusk, and Andrzej Olechowski.
UW leader Bronisław Geremek commented on the high-profile defections, "We are ready for any agreement and any dialogue, but there is no understanding with the party that is being created to destroy the Freedom Union."
The political initiative will be broad indeed if the rumours that seven lawmakers from the ruling Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS) and members of the Conservative Peasant Union (KSL) will also go along for the ride.
Olechowski explained that the initiative was created because the UW was not ready to present "its election list as a platform for a broad coalition of conservative-liberal forces." The UW is "not inclined to give the list the name and character that would make it a joint representation of the conservative-liberal formation ... That is why I decided to discontinue the work and initiate together with [Maciej] Plazynski and [Daniel] Tusk actions in favour of another, more promising solution."
According to a Pracownia Badan Spolecznych (PBS) poll, almost 23 per cent of Poles said they would be ready to vote for the new political formation.
Environmentalists have successfully filed a petition suspending a shopping centre construction project worth USD 47 million. They claim that the construction of the centre, located near Krakow, may have an impact on rare frogs living in a nearby pond. "This issue and the delay complicates our work," said Exbud Chief Executive Leszek Walczykand, meaning that the company may not be finished by the December 2001 deadline.
Environmentalists claim that the local pond contains rare species of frogs, including the green frog, as well as newts and a type of mussel that could be endangered by the parking lot that is supposed to be built within meters of it.
No Golden Years
An 81-year-old man died of exposure this week after his family forced him to live in a barn for the past four years.
Ewa Renc, a spokeswoman for the local police said, "The man lived in the barn with cows and pigs since 1996. His wife and daughter-in-law refused to let him in the house and did not give him anything to eat or drink ... His son found him Wednesday tired and frozen from the cold. After being taken to hospital the old man died on Thursday." Police have opened an investigation.
Joanna Rohozińska, 20 January 2001
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Today's updated headlines from Poland