Vol 1, No 11
6 September 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 28 August 1999
Compiled by Joanna Rohozinska and Donosy-English
By far the biggest news this week was the sacking of Deputy Prime
Minister Janusz Tomaszewski by Polish Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek. Buzek
removed Tomaszewski, who was also the Interior Minister after the veteran
anti-communist activist refused to resign or answer press accusations
related to suspicions he had links with the Communist-era security police. "The
Prime Minister should be able to trust his ministers," said Buzek adding
that "we had to end this uncertainty." A vetting court set up to scrutinise
the personal histories of top state officials later said it had begun an
investigation into Tomaszewski's associations with the Communist authorities.
Tomaszewski is the highest ranking victim of a 1997 vetting law, under which
top governmental, parliamentary and other officials must publicly declare
whether they collaborated with the security services.
In a similar story, Robert Mroziewicz, Poland's deputy Defense Minister responsible for the integration of Poland's armed forces into NATO, resigned after a public prosecutor questioned his denial of links with the pre-1989 secret police. Mroziewicz, a former anti-Communist activist, was reported as saying that while he was under suspicion he could not remain in a post where he had access to military secrets. Mroziewicz faces a fine and ten-year ban from public office if the court finds proof that he lied.
The 60th anniversary of the outbreak of the Second World War was commemorated during ceremonies at Westerplatte where the first shot of the war was fired. President Aleksander Kwasniewski and German President Johannes Rau appealed for Polish-German reconciliation and stressed the importance of good relations between the two nations. Rau also paid tribute to the Solidarity movement and acknowledged its contribution to the reunification of Germany. Kwasniewski addressed the Jewish community in Hebrew, Polish and German, assuring them that their suffering during the war would not be forgotten. Kwasniewski also noted Germany's contribution to Poland's economic success and thanked Germany for its support for Poland's efforts to join NATO and its bid to join the EU (European Union). The celebrations ended with a "Concert of Reconciliation" performed by the Israeli Philharmonic.
Television Information Agency (TAI) director Jacek Maziarski resigned from his post saying that he was unable to keep the news programmes of state-owned TVP television objective and neutral. Maziarski claims that TVP journalists and news editors have been detrimentally influenced by Marian Zalewski, who is a close friend of Waldemar Pawlak, the former Prime Minister and former leader of the Polish Peasants' Party (PSL). News content in recent months has given the PSL disproportionately large coverage relative to their parliamentary presence.
The Gdansk District Court issued two rulings last Friday in the criminal cases against General Wojciech Jaruzelski and ten others for the deaths of 44 people in December 1970 during protests in Gdansk, Gdynia and Szczecin. The first ruling was to recommence the criminal case against Jaruzelski that had been suspended in 1997 due to the defendant's poor health. The second was an application to the Supreme Court for permission to transfer the cases to Warsaw. A doctor concluded in June that Gdansk was too far for Jaruzelski to travel, but that he was healthy enough to testify in Warsaw. Jaruzelski was satisfied with the news. "I tried to move the case three years ago. I am fully aware of the tragedy of December 1970, but I also know that many biased opinions have surrounded that event. The only chance to find the truth and for justice to be done may be to have a court hear the case. I will stand before that court without fear," Jaruzelski stated.
Former Polish President Lech Walesa hosted a summit of Polish political party leaders on poverty. After four years of relative political obscurity Walesa said he had invited top politicians to the meeting to discuss ways to ease growing social tensions, notably among miners and farmers, but analysts said it was part of a bid to win back his old job in the elections scheduled for next year. Walesa is the first politician to announce he will run for president in 2000. Lena Kolarska-Bobinska, head of the Public Affairs Institute, a political think-tank, stated that "his efforts may weaken the right-wing." A right-wing failure in the 2000 polls would likely put power in the hands of ex-Communists during Poland's accession to the European Union.
The Centre for Strategic Studies (RCSS), a Polish government think-tank, said that a loosening of monetary and fiscal policy is needed to revive the country's slowing economic growth. The RCSS expects GDP growth to slow to 3.5 percent this year and RCSS chief Jerzy Kropiwnicki has strong doubts about whether next year's budget draft target of 5.6 percent is realistic.
The Foreign Ministers of Hungary and Poland got together to begin trying to iron out a long-standing agricultural trade dispute. Both parties are acutely aware the EU would scrutinise the way they settle the row. "We must be able to convince the EU that we can live, discuss and exist together, because this is a basic principle of the Union," Polish Foreign Minister Bronislaw Geremek told a news conference after meeting his Hungarian counterpart, Janos Martonyi. Poland withdrew the preferential CEFTA treatment of Hungarian agricultural produce after Polish farmers complained that heavily subsidised Hungarian exports were threatening their livelihoods. Geremek said that the two countries should not allow this relatively minor dispute to cloud otherwise exemplary relations between the two countries.
General Andrzej Duleba has officially replaced the embattled General Kazimierz Dziok as commander of the Polish Air Force and Air Defence Forces (WLOP). Dziok resigned last week citing the very difficult financial and staff situation in the service. Duleba was assigned to the Air Force General Staff in 1991. Observers note that the Air Force is a minor player in the Polish Armed Forces.
The Voivod of Silesia, Marek Kempski, has launched an anti-corruption campaign against public functionaries within his own office, as well as in local government offices and regional companies owned by the State Treasury. The campaign will test whether the new law on limiting business activity by state officials is adequate. Kempski personally requested that the local Internal Revenue Authority conduct the investigation into the financial affairs of regional voivod functionaries. The process will follow several stages and after the initial review, the Supreme Board of Inspection (NIK) will also check whether local governments, the management of companies controlled by the State Treasury, the prosecutor's office, and tribunals abide by the anti-corruption law. Lastly, a special confidential hotline will be set up for anyone who would like to report corruption among government officials in Silesia.
Not seeming to get the point, advertising agencies and media services in Poland have joined forces to oppose legal bans on tobacco advertising and commercials aimed at children which they say could wipe out more than a third of their market. "Should advertising aimed at children be banned, we would lose two billion zlotys, or 40 percent of last year's advertising budget," said Witold Gawda, president of the Polish unit of the International Advertising Association. Further restrictions on tobacco advertising, already banned from television, would cost some 126 million zlotys (USD 32 million), he added. Earlier this year legislators tried to ban radio and television advertising aimed at children, claiming that it harmed psychological development by pressuring children to emulate richer peers. The President vetoed the bill. Spending on advertising in 1998 rose to over five billion zlotys, more than triple the 1994 level. In the first half of 1999 spending amounted to 3.5 billion zlotys.
Warsaw played host to the international conference, Europe Under Nazi Rule and The Holocaust, which ran from 29 August to 1 September. Coordinated jointly by Yad Vashem (The Holocaust and Heroes Remembrance Authority), the Mordechai Anielewicz Center at the University of Warsaw, the Jewish Historical Institute (ZIH) in Warsaw and the Hamburg Institute for Social Research, it was the first time that Yad Vashem has held its international scholarly meeting outside of Israel. The Warsaw meeting is the second of three conferences; the first one took place in Jerusalem in January, the third one is scheduled for March 2000 in the United States. Historian Yisrael Gutman stated that this marked the first time that Israeli and European scholars have been able to address certain questions together, pooling their various studies, approaches and experiences.
As of 1 September, doctors authorised by the Social Insurance Board (ZUS) have the right to check the validity of sick leave if they suspect individuals are abusing the relevant regulations. The act also clarifies the criteria for granting sick leaves and benefits. According to the Finance Ministry, the previous regulations led to many abuses. From now on, only ZUS-certified doctors will have the right to grant sick leave, while employers will be able to ask ZUS to check the validity of employees' time off for illness.
Compiled by Joanna Rohozinska and Donosy-English, 4 September 1999
Donosy's Week in Poland appears in Central Europe Review with the
kind permission of Donosy-English:
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