Vol 1, No 17
18 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 9 October 1999
Compiled by Joanna Rohozinska and Donosy-English
In the latest installment of the ongoing political saga in Poland, Prime Minister Jerzy Burzek appealed for an ending of disputes within the ruling AWS-(Solidarity Election Action) UW (Freedom Union) coalition. Burzek stressed that the current disputes are not making the work of the government any easier, and confirmed that the coalition was going through uncertain times. "It is the lack of cohesion of the government which is worrying me now, because the coalition disputes affect the government's work," said Burzek. He also said that he will take decisive steps to improve internal discipline within the cabinet. The talks between the AWS and UW, held on and off for more than a week now, resulted in the signing of a supplement to the existing coalition, as well as an agreement on some changes to cabinet and government posts. UW leader Leszek Balcerowicz said that the agreement with AWS took into account the most important elements contained within the memorandum presented by UW at the outset of the talks.
After finally sacking the head of ZUS (the Social Security Office) Stanislaw Alot, Burzek appointed Leslaw Gajek to the post. Gajek said that the Prime Minister will get a report on ZUS within a month. The report will be an analysis concerning the collection of insurance premiums as well as outlining spending projections for next year.
Professor Witold Kulesza was unanimously elected to be the official candidate for the position of the head of the IPN (National Remembrance Institute). Kulesza was elected by the 11 members of the IPN Council. Polish law states that Kulesza needs the support of three-fifths of the Sejm's deputies, as well as the Senate's consent before his position is formally approved. The Sejm has to decide about candidature within a month of a proposal being presented. IPN is to grant public access to files of Communist-era special services in Poland, as well as prosecute Communist and Nazi era crimes.
Much ado about nothing in the end? Either this is a mark of pessimism or it simply demonstrates the inaccuracy of public opinion polls. Many have expressed doubt that personnel changes within the Sejm would improve public confidence in the legislature or result in greater efficiency and accountability of the government. Only 31 per cent of all respondents expressed a desire for the existing parliament to be dissolved. However, nearly 50 per cent support leftist opposition parties, which would stand to gain from early elections. On the other hand, among those who identify themselves as supporters of right-wing parties, 20 per cent support the dissolution of the Sejm.
The ruling Solidarity Elections Action (AWS) has proposed a bill in the Sejm that would ban former members of Poland's Communist Party (PZPR) from public office. The so-called "dekomunizacja" (de-Communization) act would affect former party officials, former cabinet members, military officials, attorney generals, Supreme Court Justices as well as former editors-in-chief of the daily newspaper TrybunaLudu, reported Zycie. Although the bill has some support among right-wing factions within AWS, it seemingly has no public support as of yet.
Perhaps a sigh of relief for Polish politicians. The European Commission's (EC) annual progress report for potential new members viewed Poland in a more favourable light than had been expected among Polish politicians. The report commended Poland for its economic progress and stability, especially in weathering the Russian economic meltdown. On the other hand, according to the report, Poland will need to hasten industrial reforms, correct flaws in the judicial system, tighten border controls and inprove transport infrastructure, among other things, before it can become a full member of the European Union. The report cited Poland's outdated farming industry as one of the main obstacles standing in the way of entry to the Union. For a more detailed analysis, see this week's special EU update
And perhaps looking ahead a bit, the National Bank of Poland announced it would seek a one billion Euro loan from the European Union upon entry into the Union. It is estimated that about three billion Euros will be needed to change the current zloty-based system over to the system presently used in the EU. The National Bank pointed out that Greece and Denmark both received loans from the EU upon entry, and that Poland is counting on a similar gesture.
And finally, speaking of euros, the European Central Bank (ECB) announced that new members need not accept the euro immediately upon entry into the union. The aforementioned EC progress report said that, "Attempts at too early adoption of the euro...could be highly damaging for the candidate and ought to be discouraged." The Polish Central Bank has expressed hopes that it will be ready to join the European Monetary Union (EMU) three years after acceptance into the EU. It seems this is still a few years up the road, however, as Poland has said that it will be ready to join the EU by 2003, but other analysts have said that 2005 is more likely.
Compiled by Joanna Rohozinska and Donosy-English, 15 October 1999
Donosy's Week in Poland appears in Central Europe Review with
the kind permission of Donosy-English:
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