Vol 1, No 7, 9 August 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 August 1999
Compiled by Joanna Rohozinska and Donosy-English
Ongoing trial in New York city: 11 Polish Jews have brought a lawsuit against the Polish government asking for the return of property seized during the Second World War. Lawyers for the plaintiffs, Edward Klein and Mel Urbach, have claimed that Poland, or more specifically the Treasury Ministry, enriched their own coffers thanks to the Nazis' Judenrein policy, as it allowed them to "occupy and reap benefits from Jewish goods and property." Both lawyers have had experience with similar suits. Urban was one of the prosecutors involded in the reclamations suit against Swiss banks.
Poland experienced a deflationary period throughout July as prices fell by 0.1 to 0.4 percent. The annual inflation rate as of the end of the month holds steady, with June recording 6.5 percent - an increase of 0.1 percent from May.
Perhaps an end is in sight to the rash of strike actions which have plagued Poland of late. The National Trade Union Accord (OPZZ), a major coalition of left-wing trade unions, confirmed it wants to discuss the principles and future of social dialogue in Poland with the Solidarity Election Action (AWS). OPZZ leader Jozef Wiaderny stated that he sent a letter to AWS leader Marian Krzaklewski, inviting him to take part in such talks. Wiaderny said he would like the dialogue to take place within the so-called tripartite commission, formed by the government, employers and trade unions.
Over a thousand people, dressed in traditional costumes, from Zakopane, Rabek and Oraw completed their 250 km pilgrimage to Jasna Gora. They sang religious songs as they completed their walk at the main chapel and were greeted by Bishop Jan Szkodon of Krakow.
Deputy Economy Ministry Jan Szlazak, who is responsible for the reform of the coal mining industry, said this week that in the first six months of 1999, the sector registered losses totaling some PLN (Polish zlotys)1.6 billion (USD 409 million), PLN 100 million more than anticipated for the entire year. The government will soon earmark PLN 80 million in credit to support the creation of non-mining jobs in mining communities.
The organization Primum non nocere demonstrated in front of the Sejm, decrying the maltreatment of patients, the regularity of errors by physicians and the generally poor administration of health services.
Retroactive payments will be made to state workers whose wages were not recalculated in the years 1991 to 1992. Payments will be made in cash rather than in promissory notes.
Leader of the farmers' union Andrzej Lepper has threatened the dissolution of the government and a peasant uprising. Union leaders had demanded a meeting with government representatives in Kruszwica. Though the meeting did not take place, the planned blockage of the roads was called off. The farmers have refused to come to Warsaw.
Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek demanded an explanation regarding the appointment process of the Polish delegation which was sent to the recent session of the Committee on Human Rights in Geneva. Apparently the delegates did not know any official UN languages, though this reportedly did not seem to surprise officials in Geneva and in the Council of Europe in Strasbourg.
Jaroslaw Kalinowski, the head of the Polish Peasants' Party (PSL) suffered a minor embarrassment when he publicly blamed Jerzy Buzek's government for selling an oil refinery in Kruszwica. Journalists reminded him that the company was sold by the previous SLD-PSL government, in which Kalinowski was Minister of Agriculture.
There were more problems with the army, as a deserter killed two bystanders - a forest inspector and his daughter. The 21-year old soldier escaped with the weapon after his guard duty and apparently intended to kill someone in his home town. It is not clear why he shot people on the way; he was captured a few hours later.
The leaderships of BRE and Bank Handlowy officially announced their merger. The new bank will be the third largest in Poland (behind PKO BP and PKO SA) and the clear leader in corporate and investment banking.
Jerzy Buzek has said he will personally supervise implementation of the pension reform and control the situation in the insurance firm ZUS. The Prime Minister met with Stanislaw Alot, Director of ZUS, Cezary Mech, Director of the Supervisory Office of Pension Funds and other pension fund representatives. Afterwards, the Prime Minister told journalists that, "Once a week, ZUS is obligated to give me a report regarding the program for improving the situation." ZUS did not even transfer ten percent of required payments to pension funds. Last week, ZUS and Procom, the company that computerized the ZUS system, introduced a plan according to which by the middle of October, the pension funds will receive all outstanding payments.
The government once again has not made a decision regarding the re-privatisation law. This is primarily due to opposition by ministers, dissatisfaction of previous owners, international pressure, as well as the controversy that the bill has raised among Polish citizens. Their negative view of the project revolved around the fact that they only stand to regain 60 percent of the value of property taken from them after the Second World War. The government has already been working on the project for two years now.
The government is considering shortening the workweek. This past week, they talked about amending certain plans and the new labour code prepared by SLD members of parliament and AWS senators. They are planning to shorten the work week from 42 hours to 40 hours. It would mean introducing a five-day workweek. The Ministry of Labour and Social Policy is also preparing similar plans.
Amendments to the Senate's proposed Language Law will not prohibit swearing on the streets and foreign names will not have to be translated as had been threatened. Companies which use just foreign names for their commodities, services and advertisements will have to pay a fine of PLN 100,000. A preamble was added which comments about "the necessity to defend the national identity within the process of globalization." The name of the bill was also changed to "A Bill Regarding the Polish Language and Its Protection."
Compiled by Joanna Rohozinska and Donosy-English, 7 August 1999
Donosy's Week in Poland appears in Central Europe Review with the kind permission of Donosy-English:
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