The school system in Poland has been the subject of several reforms since the communist era. This applies to both the curricula and the structure of the school system.
A major turnaround from 2017 has caused dissatisfaction. It has been warned that both the number of schools is decreasing and the number of teachers being fewer. The school system was remodeled despite name gatherings and protests from teachers’ unions and parent associations ; The critics believe that the Conservative Government Party Law and Justice pushed through the changes too quickly, without thorough analysis. About three-quarters of the teachers are members of the trade union organization ZNP, which has opposed the reform. The union has also been striking for higher wages.
- COUNTRYAAH: Country facts of Poland, including geography profile, population statistics, and business data.
The 2016/2017 academic year raised the age for starting school from six to seven years. In the autumn term of 2017, compulsory school was extended from six to eight years. It abolished then in place system with a middle school, a supplementary stage for students in secondary school age. Those students have been transferred to elementary school. It takes several years to phase out the old system.
In practice, this means returning to a system similar to what Poland had in communist times. When the superstructure phase was introduced in 1999, according to media reports, the aim was to reduce differences between schools in Poland and other EU countries. The supplementary stage has also been seen as an explanation for the Polish pupils’ results in the so-called Pisa surveys steadily improving between 2000 and 2012.
All in all, the compulsory school time has been shortened again, by one year.
The new curriculum has also been criticized, especially a strong emphasis on Polish history and folk heroes. According to media reports, sex education should not include methods for restricting children.
Anna Zalewska, who herself has a teacher background and was responsible for the reform as Minister of Education, in 2019 went on to become a member of the European Parliament for Law and Justice.
The oldest of the institutions is Jagiello ń ska, a university in Kraków founded in 1364. The largest university is in Warsaw.
The tuition is free in the public school system, even at the universities, for Polish citizens and EU citizens. Private colleges can decide on fees themselves.
- Andyeducation: Introduction to education system in Poland, including compulsory schooling and higher education.
FACTS – EDUCATION
Proportion of children starting primary school
95.0 percent (2016)
Number of pupils per teacher in primary school
Reading and writing skills
98.7 percent (2008)
Public expenditure on education as a percentage of GDP
11.6 percent (2015)
Public expenditure on education as a percentage of the state budget
11.6 percent (2015)
Polish-Russian word war about the world war
The Polish Foreign Ministry calls on Russia’s ambassador to stage a diplomatic protest, an element of an ongoing war between the countries. President Putin has recently claimed that Poland bore some of the blame for World War II, he later spilled on accusations of Polish anti-Semitism. On the Polish side, one responds, among other things, that Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union cooperated even before the war, and that Soviet troops also attacked Poland shortly after the outbreak of war, which began with the Nazi march in Poland on September 1, 1939.
Dismissed judging team is approved
The Sejm, the lower house of Parliament, adopts the new law that makes it easier for the government to dismiss judges. The law is approved with 233 votes in favor, 205 against and 10 abstentions. The law must be approved even in the upper house, the Senate, before it can take effect.
Manifestations against legislative proposals
In more than 110 cities, protests have been announced against the government’s overthrow of the judiciary. The demonstrations are organized by legal associations and grassroots organizations (see December 5). The Supreme Court has warned the government the day before, arguing partly that the new law that is underway reminds of the communist regime’s introduction of martial law 38 years earlier, and that Poland’s EU membership could be in danger if the government undermines the judiciary. The EU has announced that the law will be closely scrutinized.
Capital cities want their own channel to the EU
The EU-positive mayors in four European capitals sign a joint declaration, which states that they should seek direct cooperation with the EU, as their countries are governed by EU-critical parties. Behind this “free cities pact” are the rulers of Budapest, Warsaw, Prague and Bratislava. At the intergovernmental level, Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia have their own cooperation forum called the Visegrád Group, which was formed before becoming EU member states. Several of the governments are now involved in the EU’s tributaries, which consider that the government parties do not respect basic legal and democratic values.
Protest call from Wałęsa
Former President Lech Wałęsa, legendary as a union leader and freedom hero during the communist era, calls for a mass protest against the changes to the judicial system that Poland’s conservative government is implementing. “The destruction of an independent judicial system must not be allowed,” growls Wałęsa, who says he is ready to lead a “million march” against Warsaw.
The opposition is aiming for the presidential election
The Citizens’ Platform (PO), which is the largest of Poland’s opposition parties, agrees that Małgorzata Kidawa-Błońska will become its candidate in the presidential elections in the spring of 2020. She is the Vice-President of Parliament’s House of Commons and the party believes she can gather wider popular support than Jacek Jaśkowiak, mayor in Poznań, which is more pronounced liberal on issues such as abortion law. Donald Tusk, former prime minister, among others, would probably have been the first choice, but he has declared that he will not run. The PO hopes to win the presidential post not least because the president can veto laws passed in parliament, and the conservative ruling party PiS does not have a sufficient majority in the House of Commons to pass a law without the president’s support.
Respit for Poland at climate meeting
13th of December
When the EU heads of state and government agree on the goal that the Union should be carbon-neutral in 2050, Poland assures respite. Poland, with its heavy dependence on coal as a source of energy, thinks it will not be able to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions so quickly and wants to keep its own pace of action, but will be granted a postponement in June with its decision. The new President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen has published a plan on how to change the EU economy in a more climate-friendly direction. One of the cornerstones of EU negotiations is nuclear power: Poland, like the Czech Republic and Hungary, wants EU support to be used for nuclear projects.
HD: Legal reforms are partly illegal
The Supreme Court considers that part of the Polish government’s reform of the judiciary is contrary to European and thus to Polish law. The Disciplinary Chamber does not meet the requirements of the law, it is stated in the HD’s conclusions (see November 19). In line with criticism from the political opposition, the Court considers that the Disciplinary Chamber is not sufficiently independent from the government and Parliament. A week later, the ruling party PiS responds with a supplement that would make it punishable for judges to question the legality of judicial appointments. According to the proposal, judges should also not be allowed to engage politically.
Legal reform is bounced back to Poland
The European Court of Justice will issue a ruling on the Disciplinary Chamber with the power to punish judges and prosecutors established by the Polish government. Both the ruling party Law and Justice (PiS) and the opposition and the judiciary interpret the ruling as a victory. PiS critics have questioned both the Disciplinary Chamber and other legal reforms of concern that the government is gaining too much influence over the judiciary (see September 20, 2018 and June 24, and July 17, 2019). The case in the European Court of Justice addresses cases where Polish judges complain about being forced to retire. In the disciplinary chamber, which with the new order would decide their case, sit members that PiS wanted to place there. According to the European Court of Justice, it will now be the Supreme Court of Poland to decide whether the Disciplinary Chamber is to be considered legitimate. According to the ruling, courts in Poland cannot bring cases to the disciplinary chamber unless it has been judged to be independent.
Extremist group revealed
Polish police have uncovered an extremist group that has planned attacks on Muslims. Two people have been arrested in major cities and explosives have been seized. The group should have taken the impression of the acts committed by Anders Behring Breivik in Norway in 2011. Poland has 38 million inhabitants, of which about 20,000 are estimated to be Muslims. In eastern Poland, Tatars who are Muslims live for centuries.
The opposition controls the Senate
Tomasz Grodzki, who belongs to the opposition party Citizens’ Platform, will be President of the Senate. The opposition wins the vote by 51 votes to 48. What the opposition parties can achieve when they control the Senate is to stop the rapid laws being tabled in the Sejm. It has happened during the last term of office that the Conservative government, which then had a majority even in the Senate, took advantage of the opportunity given by the takeover to rapid legislation. The opposition, on the other hand, cannot push through its own legislative proposals through the Senate, such proposals can be stopped by the majority side of the government in the Sejm. In the new Senate, the EU flag now makes the Polish company again. During the last term of office, the EU flag was withdrawn.
The climate gets a ministerial portfolio
Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and Jaroslaw Kaczyński, leader of the Government Party Law and Justice, present the new government (see October 13). Many ministers remain on their posts. One of the news is that a Ministry of Climate Affairs will be set up, with the mission to promote sources of renewable energy and reduce carbon dioxide emissions. The post of EU Minister is dismissed from the Foreign Ministry but placed directly under the Prime Minister. When the government approved the seismic November 19, Morawiecki said in the government statement that Poland should work to reduce Brussels centralization within the EU and that there must be a return to Christian values in the Union.
Poland violated EU law in court reform
The European Court of Justice has concluded that Poland violated EU law when the retirement age for judges was lowered in 2017 and different retirement ages for men and women were introduced in the judiciary (see December 20, 2017 and October 19, 2019). Since the European Commission brought the matter to the European Court of Justice, the Polish government has withdrawn some of its changes in the judiciary, but the Commission has argued that there were grounds for concern about the development of justice in Poland. Previously, the European Commission has been right to Poland on the issue of maximum age for judges in the Supreme Court (see June 24, 2019).
EU lawyer: Illegally say no to refugees
Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic violated EU law when they refused to accept refugees in 2015, when an unusually large number of refugees applied to Europe. The judgment is made by the Advocate General of the European Court of Justice. The three EU countries refused to follow a decision on the distribution of refugees which would reduce the pressure on reception in Greece and Italy (see December 7, 2017). The countries that said no referred to law and order as well as internal security, arguments rejected by the Advocate General. The European Commission took the case to the European Court of Justice, which does not have to follow the Advocate General’s statements, but it usually does. The penalty can be fined.
Russian-Polish investigation of air crash
Polish and Russian investigators jointly launch a new investigation into the air crash in Russian Smolensk 2010 when 96 people lost their lives. Among the victims were Polish President Lech Kaczyński and large parts of the country’s political elite, who were on their way to a commemoration. The Polish government party PiS and its strong man, brother of the dead president, are convinced that the crash was a terrorist act.
PiS requires conversion of votes
The Government Party Law and Justice (PiS) requires recalculation of the votes in the Senate election from six constituencies, where PiS lost hardly (see October 13). A week later, the Supreme Court has tried the first of the six cases and rejected the complaint.
Old camp guard in court
A 93-year-old man who served as a guard in the Nazi death camp at Stutthof outside Gdańsk during World War II is being tried in Germany. The man is accused of contributing to the death of over 5,200 people; most of the victims were Jews. Since he was a teenager himself when he supervised prisoners in the camp, he is tried as a minor. He has stated that he was summoned to the Nazi army as a 17-year-old in 1944 and commanded to the SS service in Stutthof. About 65,000 people met the death in Stutthof, which was first set up to house political prisoners from Poland. The 93-year-old is one of the old camp guards prosecuted in light of the fact that John Demjanjuk, a former guard in the Sobibór camp, was sentenced in court in 2011.
Conservative victory in parliamentary elections
Governing Law and Justice (PiS) will be the biggest in the parliamentary elections, as expected. 44 percent support guarantees continued conservative governance with family-oriented welfare policy. The ruling party’s dissatisfaction with the EU that the judiciary’s independence does not appear to have deterred voters. The Liberal Citizens Coalition will be the second largest with 27 percent of the vote. The Left is again mandated through a multi-party alliance that reaches 13 percent support. Even the peasant party and the Confederation alliance, which stands far to the right, pass the barrier to Parliament’s lower house. The Senate election gets the most surprising result: PiS loses its majority. The opposition is now estimated to be able to collect 51 out of 100 seats in the upper house.
Polish writer receives Nobel Prize
Olga Tokarczuk, Polish author, is awarded the 2018 Nobel Prize in Literature, the prize that was not awarded the year before as a result of internal contradictions within the Swedish Academy. Tokarczuk writes in many genres, including poetry, novels and short stories.
The abolished time limit provides for victims of abuse
A court in Gdańsk decides that a man who, for several years in the 1980s, was subjected to sexual abuse should receive compensation from the perpetrator, who is a priest, by the congregation and by the Catholic diocese where the abuse was committed. The uniqueness of the case is that the Court of Appeal cancels the limitation period, the time limit that would otherwise have meant that it was too late to sentence a penalty. The amount of the damages will be 400,000 zloty, about SEK 1 million. The Catholic Church has recently been increasingly criticized for allowing and concealing abuse against children and young people (see March 14 and May 14, 2019).
Law and justice go to victory, but how big?
The Government Party Law and Justice clearly leads, with 42 percent voter support, in the Institute’s Kantars survey ahead of the parliamentary elections on October 13. The center parties’ Alliance KO reaches 29 percent support and the Left Alliance 13 percent. A couple of small parties are close to the bar to get a mandate and six percent of the voters surveyed have not decided which party to vote for, so the united opposition looks to have the chance to defeat the Conservative government party. But a survey with more respondents, by the Institute Dobra for the press group Polska, gives Law and Justice a clear rolling victory by 48 percent.
Ex-Presidents warn of dictatorship
Three former presidents warn in an open letter about growing authoritarian tendencies. Lech Wałęsa, Aleksandr Kwaśniewski and Bronisław Komorowski write that the two-week election will decide whether Poland should be a democratic rule of law or continue to execute on a sloping plan against dictatorship. The post is made in support of opposition alliances in a situation where voter surveys give the ruling party Law and Justice 40-45 percent support.
The church is accused of discrimination
Two different authorities will investigate how the Catholic Archdiocese of Krakow complies with the law. The diocese has laid off three employees at the church’s press office with reference to the women being unmarried. Two of the women have adopted children, and thus are family carers. Two married women are allowed to keep their jobs at the same time.
Letter to Poles on Brexit: “Go home”
About 800,000 Poles living in the UK have received letters from the country’s London ambassador. The letter urges Poles to “seriously consider” returning to their home country when Britain leaves the EU, otherwise they should make sure to apply for a residence permit. Last year, 116,000 Poles moved home. More than a quarter of those who remain have applied for a permit to stay.
Parliament closes after the election
At the request of the ruling party Law and Justice, Parliament is updated. The closure lasts until after the election on October 13, and then it will be the old members who gather because the parliamentary session has not ended. PiS justifies the decision that members want time for campaign meetings in their constituencies. The political opposition is critical and doubts that PiS has pushed through the decision of noble motives.
Promises: Low wages are raised in several steps
In the run-up to the election on October 13, the government announced that a promised increase in the minimum wage will be implemented in January, with further increases in 2021 and 2023. About 1.5 million Poles work for the minimum wage, which in 2020 will be 2,600 zloty, corresponding to just over SEK 6,300.
The largest opposition group changes poster names
Małgorzata Kidawa-Błońska, Deputy Speaker of Parliament, has been promoted as prime ministerial candidate for the alliance of the Liberal Opposition parties Citizens’ Platform and Moderna. The message is left by Grzegorz Schetyna, who thus takes a step back. The alliance has about 25 percent support in the electorate against 40 percent for governing Law and Justice. A grouping on the left ranks third in opinion polls with 12 percent support.
Formal apology for wartime suffering
On the 80th anniversary of the outbreak of the Second World War in front of Germany’s President Frank-Walter Steinmeier an official apology to Poland. It happens in the town of Wieluń where the first Nazi bombs were dropped in 1939. Nearly six million Poles were among the war’s at least 50 million victims. Of the six million Jews murdered, half came from Poland. Before the anniversary, the issue of German damages to Poland has again been up for debate. Germany rejects new demands.
Uncleaned sewage in river with outlet in the Baltic Sea
Large amounts of unclean wastewater from Warsaw flow into the Wisła River, which flows through the city and eventually into the Baltic Sea. The reason is that a sewage treatment plant on the eastern side of the river ceased to function a few days earlier. Preparing crisis measures. The wreckage is not said to affect the quality of drinking water in the capital.
Judges were thrown out by minister
20th of August
Łukasz Piebiak, Deputy Minister of Justice, resigns after it was revealed that he staged dirt-throwing campaigns against lawyers. Those who have been subjected to dirt throwing are judges who opposed the government’s reform of the judiciary – and Piebiak himself has a court of judges behind him. For the disclosure stands the news site Onet.pl. Prime Minister Morawiecki declares that the matter has been decided as of Piebiak’s departure. In that case, Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro avoids political consequences, although it seems unlikely that he would not have been aware of what was going on. The political opposition demands that Ziobro also resign, but does not have the support of enough mandates to cast him in a vote of no confidence.
Clear result of health care reform
An audit conducted by state auditors shows that a major health care reform that the Conservative government has undergone has not achieved the targets. It has not become easier for patients to gain access to care and hospitals continue to build up debt. The auditors reviewed 29 hospitals and data from the first year with the new system (October 2017 – October 2018). One of the aims of the reform was to strengthen hospitals run by public authorities, as they were considered to have slipped in standard compared to private hospitals.
Sentenced for abuse of power – now Minister of the Interior
Mariusz Kamiński becomes new Minister of the Interior. This is provoking reactions because as late as 2015, the PiS politician was banned by the court from holding a public office. He was convicted of abuse of power at that time, but was pardoned by President Duda before the case could be tried in higher court. Kamiński founded and led Poland’s first anti-corruption authority; it was the post he had when a court struck down how the authority was investigating suspected mosquitoes within the Department of Agriculture.
The President flew privately with the State plan
Marek Kuchciński, President of Parliament, publicly apologizes for his extensive use of state aviation for personal travel. He also emphasizes that the trips were legal. Despite this, three days later he submits his resignation application. The political opposition and local media have revealed that Kuchciński has used government planes and military helicopters about a hundred times over the course of five years. On 23 occasions he had relatives with him. Kuchciński represents the ruling party Law and Justice (PiS). The newly appointed Interior Minister Elżbieta Witek is elected new President.
The Left joins the elections
Several left-wing parties form an alliance before the parliamentary elections. The alliance is called the Left (Lewica) and deepens a cooperation the parties already have: As a single unified group, they can lower the barrier they must overcome to get into parliament from 8 to 5 percent. The parties included are the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD), Spring (Wiosna), Left Together (Lewica Racem), the Polish Socialist Party (PPS) and the Labor Union (Unia Pracy). They also have support from feminist groups, among others. The alliance can pave the way for the Conservative Government Party Law and Justice (PiS) by making it harder for PiS to reach its own majority. In the 2015 election, the left got 7.6 percent of the vote, so they did not pass the 8 percent block for voting parties.
Election on October 13
President Andrzej Duda announces that the upcoming parliamentary elections will be held on Sunday, October 13. The decision must also be confirmed by the election authority. Duda says the election should be held as soon as possible so that the election movement does not get dirty.
Income tax for young people is scrapped
A new law abolishes income tax for almost anyone under the age of 26. Two million employees below a certain income threshold are believed to be affected. However, the tax for young self-employed workers remains. For the Treasury, the reform will mean a loss of 2.5 billion zlotys (just over SEK 6 billion). It is part of a large package – with still unclear funding – which includes, among other things, a thirteenth monthly payment to pensioners and strengthened support for families with children. The law comes into force three months before the parliamentary elections and is assumed not only to be able to increase voter support for the government. In some cases, it is expected to lead to earlier “black” jobs becoming “white”. Possibly even more young Ukrainians will apply for jobs in Poland. Last year, almost three-quarters of the work permits granted to Ukrainians went.
Upset feelings around Pride
The premiere march in the town of Białystok degenerates when it is disturbed by people throwing stones, eggs and crackers. Police later state that 112 quarrels have been identified. After the event, support marches in several cities are conducted by sympathizers for the LGBTQ movement. The issue of sexual minorities polarizes Poland and the debate climate is not uncommon. Government-friendly Gazeta Polska lets print a gay-friendly sticker that comes with the magazine.
Opposition cooperation with obstacles
Opposition parties, despite negotiations, have failed to form a center-left bloc to challenge the conservative ruling party PiS in the fall elections. The Citizens’ Platform (PO) sets up together with the smaller Moderna (Nowoczes) and Polish Initiative (Polska Inicjatywa), but has not agreed with the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD), says the PO’s leader. SLD is now considering forming an alliance with the Party of Spring (Wiosna). The date for the election is not set, but it will be between mid-October and mid-November.
Warning from the European Commission
The European Commission is not satisfied with how the Polish government is handling criticism against the fact that judges can be punished by a new disciplinary chamber (see June 24). Now, the Commission – which considers that there is a risk that Polish judges are being punished for doing their job independently – is going to bring Poland before the European Court of Justice on this issue too, which could result in fines. At the same time, the European Commission announces that it intends to examine how the rule of law is followed in all Member States. Annual reports can be expected.
Record heat with many deaths
In June, when Poland sweated under a heat wave, 113 people drowned. 90 percent of those who drowned were men and many were affected by alcohol. The heat reached a record level for June with 38.2 degrees.
Polack convicted of espionage in Russia
In Moscow, Marian Radzajewski is sentenced to 14 years in prison, to be served in a penal colony (with criminal work), for having spied on Poland’s behalf. According to the FSB security service, he must have collected military information and tried to access components of the Russian air defense system S-300.
Illegally force judges to retire
The European Court of Justice blames the Polish government for one of its changes to the judiciary. This is an expected outcome (see December 17, 2018). Reducing the retirement age of judges to 65 years violates EU law, according to the court. The ruling applies to judges in the Supreme Court. Advocate General Evgeni Tanchev, who is an advisor to the European Court of Justice, has also made the same recommendation on the issue of Polish judges serving in the lower court. On June 27, another judgment comes from the Attorney General who opposes Poland: even the new Disciplinary Chamber for judges is illegal.
Poland sets conditions for EU climate targets
Poland leads the opposition to measures when EU leaders fail to reach an agreement on when the member states should be climate neutral (not causing an impact on the earth’s climate). Ahead of the UN Climate Summit in September, many EU countries want to agree that the target should be reached by 2050, which would, among other things, require greenhouse gas emissions to be sharply reduced. Poland, with the support of Hungary, among others, believes that there should be a support mechanism for the EU’s poorer countries that are coal dependent.
US strength in Poland is expanding
The United States will relocate 1,000 soldiers to Poland from Germany, where the US forces include 52,000 men. According to President Trump, some military equipment is also being moved, including drones. The message is given in connection with President Duda visiting the White House, but Trump’s promise does not go so far as to fulfill requests made by the Warsaw government: that the United States establish a permanent base in Poland. The US already has about 4,500 men in Poland.
Reformed government guarantees promises to voters
Finance Minister Teresa Czerwińska, who has been trying to hold back government spending to reduce the budget deficit, is one of the ministers to be replaced when the government is reformed. Marian Banaś, who is replacing her, has a background as Deputy Minister and Head of the Tax Office, but he belongs to the Government Party Law and Justice (PiS) faithful – and the party is expected to bring welfare promises to voters ahead of the parliamentary elections to be held at the end of 2019. Several of the former ministers leave their posts because they have been elected to the European Parliament.
PiS largest in EU elections
Governing Law and Justice (PiS) wins just over 45 percent of the vote and 27 seats in the European elections. Opposition Alliance The European coalition, led by the Citizens’ Platform, receives just over 38 percent and 22 seats. The remaining 3 mandates accrue to the newly formed Party Spring (read more about the parties in the Political system). The anti-EU alliance that a libertarian and some nationalist parties formed before the election does not reach the five percent barrier. The turnout is just over 45 percent, an unusually high figure for Poland.
Used police helicopters in election campaign
Marek Opioła, chair of the Sejm Security Committee and a candidate in the European Parliament elections for the ruling party Law and Justice, has made a publicity video for his candidacy. Without consulting the police, Opioła has used one of the police Black Hawk helicopters for the recording, where he himself is seen jumping out of the helicopter wearing a helmet and bulletproof vest. National Police Chief Jarosław Szymczyk storms against the use of police in a party political context. The display of the campaign video has been stopped and the party is withdrawing from it.
Jewish criticism of the Polish government
An American law on the return of property stolen by the Nazis from their Jewish victims contributes to dissent between Poland and Israel (see February 1, 2018). In Poland, which also suffered heavily from the Nazis, the government has highlighted that measures provided for by the law – such as damages – are not the responsibility of the Polish state. Jewish World Congress condemns a statement by Prime Minister Morawiecki; at a meeting of the Government Party Law and Justice, he is reported to have said that “it would be to give Hitler a posthumous victory”.
False online accounts and hate messages blocked
Facebook has closed 27 Polish pages where there has been fake news and hate messages, says the organization Avaaz, which describes the pages as hostile to Jews, Muslims, immigrants, feminists and sexual minorities. Facebook confirms that “a number of” pages have been closed, including fake accounts.
Sharpened punishment in time for child abuse
The government announces that it wants to tighten the penalties for sexual abuse of children, from a maximum of 12 to 30 years in prison. Recent revelations about Catholic Church abuse, which is close to the Conservative Government Party Law and Justice (PiS), are pushing the party not least for the forthcoming European Parliament elections. A documentary about abuses that priests have made a great appearance and Robert Biedroń, leader of the Liberal Party Spring (see February 3), uses the film as campaign material. Parties in the PiS-critical Europe Alliance may also favor the election (see February 24).
Prosecution against employee in Nazi camp
A now 92-year-old man is accused of contributing to the death of 5,230 people in the Nazis’ Stutthof camp near Gdańsk during World War II. The man worked in the camp where about 65,000 of 110,000 prisoners – Poles and Jews – perished. He is now prosecuted in Germany, where a number of lawsuits are still being conducted against persons still living in the Nazi death machinery (see November 6, 2018).
Teachers strike for higher salaries
At the same time as the government is issuing financial promises to agriculture and pensioners, dissatisfaction among the teachers of Poland, who believe that the governing bodies have failed to reform the school system. About 15,000 schools and preschools are closed when educators go on strike for increased salaries. The leader of the teachers ‘union ZNP describes the protest action as the largest in the school’s area since 1993. The strike is interrupted for students to be able to write tests, but since the conflict is not resolved, a large part of the teachers’ groups are suspended for further actions during the autumn term. A smaller teachers’ union says yes to the government’s offer of a 15 percent increase in salary.
Refund to the elderly just in time for the election
Poland’s pensioners receive a one-time bonus – around € 200 in tax refund. This will be done on a proposal from the PiS government party and just until voters are expected to vote in the European Parliament elections at the end of May. The proposal is adopted by a large majority in the Sejm, and is not expected to encounter patrol in the Senate either. Opposition politicians accuse the government of using taxpayers’ money for voice fishing.
The EU faces a new fine for Poland
The European Commission is launching yet another lawsuit against Poland for overthrowing the justice system. Judges are punished on political grounds for their decisions (see September 20, 2018) and the independence of the judiciary is violated in violation of EU treaties when judicial appointments can be controlled by the government, the Commission considers (see March 25, 2019). Poland has two months to maintain the criticism. In the end, the penalty can be fined. Poland has backed away from EU criticism in another case, that judges were forced to retire to leave room for new executives (see December 17, 2018).
New way of appointing judges is approved
The Constitutional Court has concluded that the Constitution of Poland allows the new system of recruitment of judges introduced by the government. Members of the Supreme Judicial Council, who nominate the country’s judges, are now appointed by the parliament, which is dominated by the conservative ruling party PiS. The system undermines the judiciary’s independence, according to critics (see November 21, 2018).
The church admits hundreds of abuses against children
14th of March
Over the past 30 years, 382 representatives of the Catholic Church in Poland have been guilty of sexual abuse against children and other minors. A total of 624 victims are known, of which more than half are boys. The information is published by the church in a report based on information from dioceses and monastic orders. Archbishop Wojciech Polak says he is filled with “pain, shame and guilt”. Groups representing the victims, and have accused the church of protecting perpetrators and hiding their crimes, are demanding to know if the church has also informed the police. The report does not mention the names of perpetrators. A crime victims’ organization has previously submitted material on the Vatican of about 400 abuses (see February 21). In that compilation there are 85 priests who have been convicted of sexual abuse of children.
Poland equips the armed forces
By 2026, Poland will invest the equivalent of approximately SEK 450 billion in upgrading its defense force. The plans include the purchase of 32 fighter aircraft, helicopters, submarines and air defense systems. The intention is to increase readiness in the east – the military flank of NATO’s eastern flank – as announced by Defense Minister Mariusz Błaszczak. Some of the planned purchases are already known, as is Poland’s desire for the US to maintain a permanent military base in the country (see February 10, 2019 and November 17, 2017).
The opposition rallies ahead of EU elections
Six parties form an alliance ahead of the European Parliament elections in May to guard EU membership. The six opposition parties – which claim that Poland’s conservative government wants to move the country out of the EU – are the Citizens’ Platform (PO), the Polish Peasant Party (PSL), the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD), the Liberal Moderna (Nowoczesna) and Teraz (Nu) and the Greens. According to TVN24, the parties have also set their sights on cooperation ahead of the next presidential and parliamentary elections.
Report to the Pope on Church Abuse
Data on 400 cases of child sexual abuse committed by representatives of the Catholic Church in Poland have been collected in a report submitted to Pope Francis. In the report, bishops and archbishops are accused of darkening abuse. The report is presented in connection with the Pope holding a bishopric conference in the Vatican to discuss abuses within the church. In Gdańsk, at dawn, activists tear down a statue depicting a priest who, after his death, has been accused of giving up on children (see September 27, October 2 and November 19, 2018).
Protest against Sweden in judicial case
Sweden’s ambassador is called to the Polish Foreign Ministry to receive “indignation” against the former judge Stefan Michnik not being extradited. Michnik is in his 90s, has been living in Sweden since the 1960s and has become a Swedish citizen. According to Polish authorities, he sentenced anti-communist regime critics to death in the 1950s.
Anger at statements about the Holocaust
Poland’s foreign ministry calls on Israel’s ambassador, and Prime Minister Morawiecki intends to stay home from an imminent meeting with Israel and the Visegrad group countries (which brings together four EU countries). The reason is dissatisfaction with a statement by Prime Minister Netanyahu who according to the Polish approach makes Poles guilty of the Holocaust (see February 1, 2018). Two days later, Morawiecki rejects a proposition by US Secretary of State Pompeo that Poland should legislate on compensation for people who lost property in connection with the Holocaust. Such a law was passed in 1960, emphasizes the prime minister.
Poland signal policy arena – meeting and maneuvering
In Warsaw, a number of countries gather for a conference on the Middle East – in practice, about Iran that has not been invited. Speakers include Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. They hope the meeting will increase the pressure on Iran, but most European countries are cautious (see January 11). The day before, Pompeo followed a military exercise with sharp ammunition in Orzysz seven miles from the Russian naval base Kaliningrad; a maneuver with several participating NATO countries and with signal value directed towards Moscow. The US ambassador states that the US forces in Poland, currently 4,000 men, will be further expanded.
Air defense business with the United States
Poland will buy a mobile artillery system from the US for the equivalent of SEK 3.8 billion. The Himars system, dubbed the “high mobility artillery rocket system”, was developed for rocket artillery and ground robots – either six rockets at a time with seven miles range or a robot with 30 miles range. In the past, Poland has decided to buy American Patriots robots for more than ten times the amount.
The name of the new Liberal Party: Spring
Robert Biedroń, former mayor of Słupsk, has registered his new party. It is named Wiosna (Spring). Since Biedroń has liberal values and is openly gay himself, the party is expected to become popular among voters who are critical of Poland’s current, socially conservative rule. The election to the European Parliament in May will provide a tangible measure of the party’s attractiveness, but already in an opinion poll the week after registration, Wiosna becomes the third largest party after Law and Justice and the Citizens’ Platform (see September 4, 2018).
Good growth in the economy 2018
Growth in the economy was 5.1 percent in 2018, according to preliminary data. Despite a slight slowdown in the fourth quarter, the growth rate was the highest since 2007. Household consumption drove up the figures, private consumption rose slightly more than expected. Developments in 2019 are difficult to calculate due to Brexit. Nearly one million Poles live and work in the UK and are worried about not being allowed to stay in the country upon leaving the EU.
Butchery scandal spread to EU countries
A slaughterhouse in Kalinowo in north-eastern Poland has been closed and an investigation is in progress since it was revealed that the company had secretly received sick animals for slaughter. The meat has been sold in at least 15 countries, including Sweden, which were alerted via EU cooperation when the fraud was discovered. The meat, which was not inspected by a veterinarian, is withdrawn from the market in all countries. Expertise from the EU, which has witnessed food scandals in several countries in recent years, will analyze the case on the spot.
Polish protest at Auschwitz
An ultranationalist group demonstrates with the Polish flag at the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp on the anniversary of the Holocaust victims. The group is small, but the protest is described as the first of its kind and is led by a man who is convicted of having burned a fool of a Jew. A statement by Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki on Memorial Day also astonishes: He emphasizes that the responsibility for the mass murders was borne by “Hitler’s Germany”, rather than Nazism. In Auschwitz, around a million Jews were murdered, as well as many non-Jewish Poles, Romans and Soviet prisoners of war.
Court criticism against the Holocaust Act
A court intervenes against Poland’s controversial law on the Holocaust. A word that, among other things, makes it punishable to say positively about “Ukrainian nationalists” is, according to the court, so diffuse that it contravenes the constitution. From the beginning, the law has caused outrage in both Israel and Ukraine (see February 1 and June 27, 2018). The Kiev Parliament has stated that it equates Ukrainian independence efforts during the Second World War with Nazi crimes.
Gdańsk’s mayor knife-killed
The mayor of Gdańsk Pawe ł Adamowicz becomes the cutter in the heart during a fundraising campaign to purchase medical supplies. He dies the day after. The attacker, who is convicted of armed robbery against banks, accuses the politician and the former government of the National Citizens’ Platform (PO) of torturing him in prison. Adamowicz belonged to PO until 2015.
Diplomatic quarrel over Iran meeting in Poland
A summit will be held in Poland with the aim of increasing international pressure against Iran, states US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who states that dozens of countries will participate. Iran, which calls the plans “an anti-Iranian circus”, a few days later a diplomatic protest to Poland. From Polish diplomats come various bids on the extent to which the Warsaw Summit on February 13-14 can be described as anti-Iranian.
Spy hunt with connection to China
A Chinese businessman is arrested for spying. The man is the sales manager in Poland for the large Chinese IT company Huawei, which quickly gives him the kick. A pole with a background in the fight against cyber crime for the Polish security service is also seized. Several Western countries have recently decided to stop equipment from Huawei for safety reasons. It is primarily about 5G networks that lay the foundation for new wireless services and technologies such as self-driving cars.
Italy seeks cooperation with Polish right
Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini visits Poland, saying that Italy’s government coalition wants Poland’s help to enforce a Europe with “more security and less bureaucracy”. Salvini meets several politicians on the right, including Jaroslaw Kaczynski (PiS). Salvini’s campaign is aimed at the elections to the European Parliament in May. Resistance to immigration unites them, but there is at least one serious obstacle to cooperation: the Italian government is unlike the Moscow-friendly Polish.
Stepped up shelter for wild boar
Hunters and environmental organizations protest that the Ministry of Energy and Agriculture has ordered the hunting of wild boar to reduce the risk of spreading one of the diseases known as swine fever. African swine fever was first detected in Poland in 2014 and the spread of infection also threatens domestic pigs. The industry is worried as Poland is one of the largest exporters of pork in the EU. Since April 2018, 168,000 wild boars have been killed and the decision that now raises protests is about intensive hunting that will take place during the weekends in January. Opponents fear the disturbance of the ecosystem and that the hunt should lead to an increase in the spread of infection.
Fire protection claims after the death of teenagers
Five teenage girls are killed in a fire in an adventure facility in the city of Koszalin. They have rented themselves into an “escape room”, which means that you have to get out of a closed room with the help of clues. The event discovers that such events have reached enormous popularity – but happen with poor fire safety. An intensive effort is initiated with inspections and closures. Tighter fire protection rules are announced.