Vol 1, No 19
1 November 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 25 October 1999
Compiled by Joanna Rohozinska and Donosy-English
This week, the controversy over the vetting of diplomats deepened when President Aleksander Kwasniewski said he was against the process. The idea of vetting diplomats was proposed by Solidarity Election Action (AWS) leader Marian Krzaklewski, who announced that his party would soon present a political assessment of the Foreign Ministry's activities. The Freedom Union (UW) has also opposed the proposal - once again demonstrating an underlying rift between the ruling coalition partners. Foreign Minister Bronislaw Geremek stated that he would never agree to any party, including his own UW, dictating the terms to determine candidature for diplomatic postings. Geremek added that Krzakleweski's proposition that candidates be proportionally designated by both parties in the ruling coalition smacked of a return to party nomenclature rule.
Pension reforms will be getting an infusion of funds to help them along, as the Treasury Ministry announced that part of the revenues generated by privatisation - some Zl (Polish zlotys) 4 billion - will be designated for the implementation of the social insurance reform. A further 2.9 billion is earmarked to cover the budgetary deficit. Privatisation revenues for this year have already reached 9.8 billion, exceeding earlier estimates by 2.9 billion (and counting).P>The miners are at it again - striking that is. Miners staged a two-day blockade of rail lines last week which the Polish State Railways (PKP) say cost them Zl 5.3 million. The miners blocked two major rail junctions in southern Poland. The PKP said it will seek compensation for its losses from protest organisers, but AWS leader Krzaklewski stated that a court should determine who was responsible for compensating the PKP - whether it be the government or the protesters.
The majority of Poles - 52 per cent - judge that the current economic situation is bad. 38 per cent of those polled by the Pentor Polling Institution in October deemed the economic situation to be neither good nor bad, and only ten per cent thought it was good. These figures seem to reflect personal experiences, as 50 per cent felt their household financial situation had worsened, while only 11 per cent felt it had improved. Perhaps more optimistically, 21 per cent thought the economic situation would improve within the next year, but on the other hand, 41 per cent thought it would only get worse.
Even the pigs are rebellious in Poland. The town of Swinoujscie (which translates roughly as Pig's Path), in the north-western corner of the country near the German border, has been invaded by a herd of wild boar. The animals are terrorising the town, digging up parks and frightening tourists in search of food, officials stated. Local authorities have set up a task force to clear the roughly 60 boars from the city; they plan to round them up and may have to resort to shooting them. Bozena Pawlowska, head of the municipal nature preservation department, said that the boars roam sand dunes and public parks. They have dug up all the grass on the historic promenade and some have even shown up in front of city hall. What is more, one boar has already bitten one tourist who was walking along the promenade. Pawlowska blamed the onslaught on the fact that German foresters across the border stopped feeding the animals last winter forcing them to migrate. She added that visitors fed the piglets in the spring, and the now-adult boars have become a threat to public safety. One should keep in mind that adult boars can grow up to 100 kilograms, and they are also prize hunting trophies in Poland - which may account for the boar skins already found in public parks.
The trial of ex-militiamen accused of using undue force and shooting at striking miners during a 1981 protest at the manifest Lipcowy and Wujek mines continues in Katowice. Two of those accused have denied responsibility in the miners' deaths. One of the accused retracted his earlier testimony in which he admitted to firing in the air during the protest at the Wujek mine on 16 December 1981. The accused changed his story and stated that he did not in fact use any fire arms at all. Meanwhile, the other accused admitted he fired into the air only because he felt his life was in danger.
The Transparency International Organisation (TIO) issued its latest report which focused on measuring and exposing corruption worldwide, which - surprise - found that the level of corruption in Poland is on the rise. The corruption index TIO compiled, which is a composite index from 17 different surverys conducted by ten separate organisations, ranks Poland 44th out of the 99 countries covered. The lower down a country ranks the higher the level of corruption. Professor Antoni Kaminski, president of the Polish TIO chapter, commented that while corruption is perhaps not rife in Poland, it is strongly affected by the phenomenon. Observers say that Poland could potentially slip down in the rating next year as a result of administrative reforms which increased administrative powers within local governmental bodies.
The Christian National Union (ZChN) thinks that negotiations concerning the compensation of forced labourers under the Third Reich should be completed by the end of this year. The ZChN states that the issue is urgent, since 40 per cent of former forced labourers are now over 80 years of age and has formulated six schemes regarding the structure compensations should take. The Union also proposed that compensations should be around DM 10,000 per labourer, not the DM 1400 that Germans have suggested to date.
More strikes are in the works as teachers have announced plans to stage a day-long nation-wide strike on 19 November. They are demanding more funds for education and wage hikes for teachers. They are also seeking a greater security net, including better support benefits for teachers laid off due to educational reforms and early retirement rights, according to Polish Teachers' Union (ZNP) head Slawomir Broniarz. Deputy Education Minister Wojciech Ksiazek expressed hope that the government and the ZNP would continue negotiations and could resolve outstanding issues prior to the strike date. "We feel we've done all we could to improve things in education. We will be raising teachers' salaries," he added.
So much for coming a long way... According to a poll conducted by the Public Opinion Research Centre (CBOS) which ran in Gazeta Wyborcza on 28 October, some 42 per cent of respondents are against employing foreigners, while only 18 per cent believe they should be eligible for all jobs. However, this does not seem to match up with the almost 60 per cent who believe that employing foreign workers is favourable for Poland's economic performance. On the other hand, half of those polled agreed that foreign workers constitute a threat to the Polish job market. There seems to be some confusion here. As could be expected, Poles are more receptive to workers coming in from the West, whom they expect will bring investments or goods, whereas they are markedly less enthusiastic about those coming from the former Soviet Union and Asia - whom they perceive as bringing in organised crime.
Draw your own conclusions as yet another government official is getting sent on "holiday." This week, Jerzy Kropiwnicki, Prime Minister Buzek's cabinet-rank research chief, was "sent on holiday," according to government spokesman Krzysztof Luft. Kropiwnicki was effectively suspended after making gloomy economic predictions. Finance Minister Leszek Balcerowicz dismissed the predictions regarding inflation and current account deficit forecasts released by the think tank headed by Kropiwnicki as black propaganda. The predictions helped push the zloty to a two-year low. "The premier's decision has to do with Kropiwnicki's statements in which, without consultation, he presented outlooks that contradict other government forecasts," Luft said. UW leader Balcerowicz has long demanded Kropiwnicki's dismissal due to the latter's questionable economic predictions.
Compiled by Joanna Rohozinska and Donosy-English, 29 October 1999
Donosy's Week in Poland appears in Central Europe Review with
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