Episode 68

POLAND: Duda in Africa & more – 6th Feb 2024

The President’s African tour, an increase in Polish visa price, protecting LGBTQ+, protest against river pollution, investigating Orlen’s CEO, and much more!

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Witam from Keswick Village! This is the Rorshok Poland Update from the 6th of February twenty twenty-four A quick summary of what's going down in Poland.

Let's start off with foreign relations. President Andrzej Duda started his second African tour to improve the country’s relations with the continent. During the visit, Duda will visit Kenya, Rwanda, and Tanzania. He will sign several bilateral agreements on trade and security, discuss ways to help African countries and promote the Polish military industry for potential exports. The President will also tell African leaders that Russia is responsible for the food insecurity in Africa because it blocks Ukrainian grains and prevents them from reaching the continent. The foreign minister will also accompany the president, despite the ongoing tensions between the opposition government and the president.

Poland doesn’t want to allow entry to people from third-world countries. On Wednesday, the 31st, Radosław Sikorski, the foreign minister, announced that the government would increase the cost of Polish visas to fight bribery and illegally obtained visas. Currently, the Polish visa is one of the cheapest among EU countries. As a result, people from third-world countries massively apply for Polish visas and often bribe officials to get them. Sikorski mentioned there were a lot of unlawfully issued visas during the Law and Justice Party rule, and the new government wants to put an end to that.

Moving on, on Tuesday, the 30th, the liberal government canceled the previous Law and Justice government’s proceedings to leave the Istanbul Convention. The Istanbul Convention is an agreement between forty-five countries to protect women against violence within each country’s laws. However, the previous nationalistic ruling party found the convention ideologically wrong, saying it violated the Polish constitution and society's values. In twenty twenty, the Law and Justice party started proceedings to leave the convention, a move Polish women disapproved of. This week, the new government promised to stick to the agreement.

Next up, internal affairs. The Parliament recently accepted the state budget plan for twenty twenty-four. However, it seemed that the president wasn’t going to approve it because of his feud with the ruling party over two MPs, Kamiński and Wąsik, who were charged with abuse of power. He was against this verdict and pardoned them. Still, they were prevented from entering the parliament.

Still, on Wednesday, the 31st, the president approved the budget but referred the draft to the Constitutional Tribunal for a post-control procedure. The Constitutional Tribunal will evaluate whether the government’s twenty twenty-four budget is in line with the Constitution. The Tribunal will either accept the plan or return it to parliament for corrections. The president declared that from now on, he will refer all laws that the parliament approves to the constitutional tribunal until the parliament returns the MP status to Wąsik and Kamiński. Duda still added that the accepted budget was not constitutional because Kamiński and Wąsik should have participated in the voting on the budget plan.

In related news, the government expects an annual inflation of almost 7%, and forecasts a three percent economic growth.

On another note, Russia’s aggression and the flux of refugees from Ukraine negatively affected the Polish economy and threatened the safety of its citizens. Now, the country is preparing for a possible war against Russia. On Tuesday, the 6th, the new government announced it would approve the Civil Defense Act that will take force in March. A Civil Defense Act is a legislative act that determines the responsibilities of the state in protecting civilians, such as providing shelter and medical treatment in case of a war. For more than ten years, different governments have been creating this act, but it was never finalized. Aleksander Fiedorek, a military expert, previously criticized the government for not accepting the act and said small children and the elderly would be the first to die in a war without an effective protection law.

On Wednesday, the 31st, the prosecutor office started an investigation into Daniel Obajtek, the CEO of state-run Polish energy giant Orlen, who conducted unlawful transactions and cooperated with the Law and Justice party during the parliamentary elections. The Onet online media journal stated that the actual aim of the investigations was to get Orlen to be independent from the political influence of the Law and Justice party. Before the elections, at the end of twenty twenty-three, Orlen lowered oil prices below the global market value to improve the party's public image and help them win the election for the third time. As a result, the company’s financial situation worsened. Moreover, the office will investigate the sale of Lotos, another energy company Orlen owned. Orlen sold Lotos to Saudi Arabia cheaply, under the market value.

On environmental issues, On Saturday, the 3rd, several environmental organizations protested against the pollution of Polish rivers. The organizations named the protest Rivers are nature, not infrastructure, and they demanded that the government suspend construction works on the Oder River, the second longest river in the country. Protesters said the construction works harm clean water resources and worsen climate change.

Speaking of climate change, on Monday the 29th of January, farmers began a protest across Europe after the EU announced a plan to limit the agricultural sector because it speeds up climate change. Polish farmers will also join the protest and block the Polish-Ukrainian motorways again next week.

The previous nationalistic Law and Justice government opposed the LGBTQ+ ideology, saying it threatened the traditional Polish family values and Christian beliefs. On the contrary, the new liberal government ensured that it would give 'maximum support’ for LGBTQ+ rights. On Saturday, the 3rd, Adam Bodnar, the new Justice Minister and Prosecutor General, met with LGBTQ+ activists and apologized for the actions of the previous government. He announced a change in the country’s penal code to prevent hate speech and discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community. LGBTQ+ activists also asked the government to allow same-gender marriages; however, it is unlikely to happen because Polish society is still predominantly conservative.

Along the same lines, on Tuesday, the 6th, the Ministry of the Interior and Administration gave official status to a religious group now called the Religious Association of Polish Native Believers. The members of this association belong to a native, ancient Slavic religion that existed on Polish lands before Christianity. Previously, the Polish People’s Republic, the predecessor of today’s Poland, suppressed the activities of this religion’s believers, favoring only the official Catholic religion. With the government’s official recognition, this association has now gained access to tax privileges and money from the church fund. Besides, acknowledging minority religions will attract more believers and improve the status of religion in the country.

Disposable e-cigarettes are becoming more popular among the youth. According to law, it is forbidden to sell e-cigarettes to youngsters under eighteen years old. However, there is no limit on the amount sold, and underage consumers find a way to get hold of the e-cigarettes illegally. In twenty twenty-two The Polish Health Ministry forecasted that the number of sales would reach fourteen million cigarettes by twenty twenty-four, but the actual sales exceeded thirty-five million. Many families are asking the government to completely prohibit selling disposable e-cigarettes to protect children’s health.

And to close this edition, on Thursday, the 8th, the country will celebrate Fat Thursday, and you should eat at least two Polish donuts for bad luck not to plague you! Citizens usually buy special Polish donuts from bakery shops on this day every year. The Polish donut is different from the original American donut since it has a ball shape, is filled with rose petal marmalade, is fried in hot fat, is glazed with icing, and is sprinkled with candied orange peel. However, if you don’t want to wait in a long queue, buy your donuts before Thursday.

Aand that is for this week.

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