Vol 1, No 16
11 October 1999
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 2 October 1999
Compiled by Joanna Rohozinska and Donosy-English
As if the beleaguered Solidarity Election Action-Freedom Union ( AWS-UW) coalition government didn't have enough problems already. Prime Minister Jerzy Burzek's announcement of an impending cabinet shuffle was met with sharp criticism from the UW half of the coalition. UW leader Leszek Balczerowicz said that any changes to the cabinet implemented this week would "undermine the principle of co-operation." He went on to state that he couldn't even permit himself to imagine that the proposed changes would be pushed through. In response, Jacek Rybicki, the Political Council Head of AWS, said that his party sees no need for talks on government changes, adding that he was surprised at the UW's attitude. "If there is no consensus there is no coalition," said Rybicki - one thing both parties apparently do agree on. Rybicki also chided the UW for its lack of consistency, as its members simultaneously accuse the AWS of indecisiveness, while contesting every decision made. The main point of contention this time around seems to be the appointment of the head of the government’s Strategic Studies Centre, Jerzy Kropiwnicki, as minister of Regional Development and Housing. Burzek had announced earlier that he would announce personnel and structural changes by 3 October...and the date now is...?
In Lodz, over 300 nurses from four hospitals and a few clinics are on hunger strike and have occupied city buildings. Since last Wednesday, when nurses throughout the voivodeship joined the nation-wide strike, over 30 hunger-strikers had to stop their protest due to health reasons. Zdislaw Bujas, the spokesman for the Union of Nurses and Midwives, told the Polish Press Agency that despite this the number of protesters is growing, as new people join daily.
A two-day international conference on Transformation in Central and Eastern Europe and the Baltic countries was held this week in Warsaw. At the opening of the conference, Burzek stated that, "The creation of a democratic and market economy system, increasingly immune to international developments, is a success of Polish transformation. Admitting Poland to NATO was a token of appreciation for Polish transformation." He went on to stress that all the countries in the region had to carry out transformation lest a situation akin to that which developed in the former Yugoslavia occur. Burzek cited the joint Polish-US-Ukrainian initiative on transfers of technology as an example of the spreading of democracy and expansion of security zones. Hillary Clinton, US First Lady and New York state senatorial candidate, also made an appearance. In her address to the conference, she declared the US's support for countries in the region which are democratising and moving toward market economies.
Andrzej Lepper, the leader of the Samoobrona farmers' union, is at it again. Despite the disappointment of the Warsaw demonstration a few weeks ago, he is calling for a nation-wide general strike to demand new elections. However, the OPZZ (National Coalition of Trade Unions), the nation's largest trade union group, is being far more reserved. It says that it will defer to its Inter-union Coordinating Committee in establishing what form of protest action will be taken. Lepper stated that it is "no longer a manner of changing the [existing] government, but rather of the whole system. Communism and capitalism in their present forms have not proven [to be adequate]. A third political power is needed, one which will be an alternative to the AWS and SLD."
The Polish government finally sacked Stanislaw Alot, the head of ZUS (Social Security Office). Alot was ostensibly dismissed for criticising Finance Minister Balcerowicz and the 2000 budget draft, as it allocated too little money to meet pension obligations. Burzek told public radio that Alot's remarks were "inexcusable." If this seems a little harsh, then one need only to recall the story of ZUS as it has been unfolding over the past few months. In reality, Burzek has repeatedly resisted pressure to let Alot go. Since in politics timing is often everything, one is left to wonder whether Alot's remarks have simply provided Burzek with a convenient impetus to finally drop him and regain some sort of credit. To this observer it all seems a little too transparent - and a little too late to start sacrificing lambs.
The great butter scandal of 1999? Approximately 32 tons of butter were imported from Hungary and repackaged under a local brand name, Ekstra, with about a ton of the stuff hitting stores in Ilaw and surrounding areas. The Lubawa Dairy Company said that it bought the Hungarian butter, because local milk production has dropped about 20 per cent. The switch was discovered when shoppers began complaining about the quality. It is as yet unclear how this story will unfold - hopefully more installments are yet to come.
The AWS is joining the European political scene even if the rest of the country has not. The AWS was accepted in the European People's Party (EPL), Europe's largest association of Christian-Democratic and Conservative Parties. EPL currently holds 233 seats in the European Parliament.
Compiled by Joanna Rohozinska and Donosy-English, 7 October 1999
Donosy's Week in Poland appears in Central Europe Review with
the kind permission of Donosy-English:
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