Episode 65

POLAND: Dismissing Barski & more – 16th Jan 2024

Logging banned in forests, citizen happiness research, the visit of Belarusian opposition leader-in-exile, huge national railway station purchase, closure of fur farms, and much more!

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Witam from Keswick Village! This is the Rorshok Poland Update from the 16th of January twenty twenty-four. A quick summary of what's going down in Poland.

The president and the new government are at odds more and more. On Friday, the 12th, the government dismissed Dariusz Barski, the national prosecutor, because the former ruling party had violated procedures when appointing Barski to the position in twenty twenty-two. President Duda said the government should have consulted with the president before making the decision. Since they didn’t talk with him, he said the dismissal was against the law.

Speaking of justice, last week, a court sentenced Mariusz Kamiński and Maciej Wąsik, two MPs from the former ruling Law and Justice party, to two years in prison because they abused their power while working in the anti-corruption service or CBA in two thousand seven.

After the police entered the presidential palace and detained Kamiński and Wąsik, President Duda confronted Prime Minister Tusk. Duda said, “He will not rest until the two ex-ministers are freed" and that he will pardon the two politicians from prison for the second time since twenty fifteen. Later on, thousands of Law and Justice supporters gathered in front of the presidential palace and the parliament, protesting the court’s decision and the new liberal government.

On the other hand, Donald Tusk said that President Duda was responsible for obstructing justice because he pardoned Kamiński and Wąsik in twenty fifteen before the court's final decision.

Continuing with updates about the law, on Saturday, the 13th, Adam Bodnar, the Justice Minister, announced a bill that will reduce the participation of the government and the president in appointing judges, making them more independent.

Back when the Law and Justice Party ruled, the EU had asked the government to restore the rule of law as a requirement for access to EU funds, but the party refused, saying the EU shouldn’t interfere with countries' internal affairs.

However, after the new government’s decision to make judges more independent, the EU gave the first six billion-dollar package to Poland. Katarzyna Pełczyńska, the EU affairs minister, announced that the Union plans to grant Poland the remaining funds, worth 65 billion dollars, in April twenty twenty-four, thanks to the new government's measures.

Along the same lines, on Wednesday, the 10th, the government banned logging in the country's most valuable forests, such as the Carpathian Forest in the southeast and the Augustów Forest in the northeast. Paulina Hennig-Kloska, the new Climate and Environment Minister, said the government will extend the list of protected forests to fulfill its environmental protection obligations as an EU member.

On a positive note, according to the twenty twenty-four Henley Passport Index research published on Thursday, the 11th, the Polish passport is in 6th place in the list of the most powerful passports in the world. Polish passport holders don’t require visas to visit 189 countries out of 226 nations. The passports of the USA and Canada fall behind, with 188 countries.

Poles need visas to visit the Russian Federation, China, Australia, and some other African and Middle Eastern countries.

The opportunity to freely visit other countries might be one of the factors influencing citizens' overall happiness. On Monday, the 15th, the statistical office of the EU, or Eurostat, published data from their research on life satisfaction in Europe. Poles rank seventh on the scale from zero to ten, falling behind Austria and the Netherlands. On the other hand, Bulgaria, Germany, and Greece received six points. The Eurostat took into account participants' age, education, priorities, and values to evaluate their satisfaction with life.

In the meantime, the country’s efforts to support Ukraine continue as things get hot there. On Tuesday, the 9th, Radosław Sikorski, the new Foreign Affairs Minister, urged the US Congress to approve Joe Biden’s sixty-one billion package of military aid for Ukraine to prevent Russia from ‘conquering’ Ukraine. Also during his meeting with his Estonian counterpart, Władysław Kosiniak, the Deputy Prime Minister, said that the government will deliver new rounds of ammunition to Ukraine.

The government supports Belarusian opposition as well. On Wednesday, the 10th, President Duda hosted Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, the Belarusian opposition leader-in-exile, and her team at the Belweder palace in Warsaw. Duda said Poland supports the democratic Belarus that fights against Lukashenko’s government, which turned the country into an autocratic regime that imprisoned the opposition under the command of Russia.

Moving on to local elections, the Greens is not a popular political party, nor is it known much by the international audience. They focus on the green environment and only got over one percent of all votes in the last local elections in twenty nineteen. Despite this, on Saturday the 13th, the party announced its program for the upcoming local elections and promised a greener Poland. The party leader said that an average person in Poland lives four years less than an average person in other EU countries because the country’s nature, air, and water are more polluted. The party offered to form coalitions with pro-environmental parties, such as the Left and Civic Platform, for the twenty twenty-four local elections.

On other Greens party initiatives, on Monday, the 15th, Małgorzata Tracz, co-leader of Greens and an MP from the Civic Platform, announced that she will bring a bill before Parliament to close fur farms, which cause the death of six million animals annually in the country. Moreover, the industrial fur-making process causes insect plagues, odors, and water pollution where these farms are located. Tracz’s bill aims to prevent the opening of new fur farms starting in twenty twenty-five and the total closure of fur farms in the country in twenty twenty-nine. She said that twenty-three European countries have already decided to close all fur farms.

Taking a step forward to technical developments, on Wednesday, the 10th, the national railway station, or PKP, signed a deal with the Newag train production company to buy thirty-two high-speed engines worth 884 million dollars and sixty-three high-speed locomotives worth 581 million dollars. Additionally, the equipment will be certified for international usage, strengthening PKP's global routes. It was the biggest deal in national railway station history.

Similarly, the PKP will purchase 150 new wagons that reach up to 200 km or 124 miles per hour for the international routes to Germany, Austria, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic. They also plan to obtain the same wagons for local routes later on.

Following through with science. The University of Gdansk started a research project to find out if students' performance and mental state change when they bring their dogs to university. The project started at the beginning of the year and will last until the end of the winter. All the students willing to participate should present their dog vaccination documents to university authorities and always keep their pets on a leash. The research team will prepare recommendations for the Dean's Office if they prove that pets have a positive effect on the students' performance.

On Monday, the 15th, Polish scientists opened an AI research lab in Warsaw to create their own AI system that will compete with ChatGPT. In addition to the new lab, the state-sponsored National Information Processing Institute announced it would coordinate AI research in the country.

On another science note, Polish professors Michał Wszoła and Agnieszka Dobrzyń discovered an innovative method to treat diabetes. The new treatment will replace problematic tissues in the pancreas with artificial tissues. The Polskie Radio News said the discovery is ‘one of the most groundbreaking achievements of modern medicine.’

In unrelated news, on Monday, the 15th, the government launched a program to improve the meals at schools. The local authorities can apply for 20,000 dollars of funding each year until twenty twenty-eight to modernize canteen kitchens and upgrade the quality of meals. The financial support is available for public primary schools, youth educational centers, public art schools, among others.

Aaaaaand that's it for this week!

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