Episode 70

POLAND: Pegasus & more – 20th Feb 2024

Pegasus spyware investigation, a decrease in inflation, leaders paying tribute to Navalny, the release of frozen funds, the New Expression art exhibition, and much more! 

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Witam from Keswick Village! This is the Rorshryok Poland Update from the 20th of February twenty twenty-four. A quick summary of what's going down in Poland.

Let’s kick off with internal affairs news. On Tuesday, the 13th, President Andrzej Duda and Prime Minister Donald Tusk met in the presidential palace after two months of butting heads. The two politicians discussed the projects the state would invest in using the state budget, such as the first nuclear plant and a new airport in Warsaw. They also talked about allocating money to modernize the army. The leaders agreed that despite their different political views, cooperation was more important for the country's security and development.

They also talked about the previous Law and Justice government's use of the Pegasus spyware to monitor the actions of politicians from the opposition. Tusk handed over documents confirming the Law and Justice party purchased the Pegasus surveillance system as well as a list of victims to the President.

On Monday, the 19th, a parliamentary commission started investigating the previous government's use of the software. In the next few days, the commission will invite major politicians from the Law and Justice, such as Jarosław Kaczyński, the president of the party; Zbigniew Ziobro, the former minister of justice; and ex-Interior Minister Mariusz Kamiński, to question them. The Commission will ask why the previous government bought the spyware and why they used it on opposition politicians when they were supposed to use it to track foreign spies and terrorists. Tomasz Trela, a Left Party MP, stated that the commission could help uncover one of the biggest political incidents in Poland since nineteen eighty-nine.

In economic updates, on Thursday, the 15th, the country's yearly inflation in January dropped to almost four percent, which is the lowest after the COVID-19 pandemic. It was over six percent in December twenty twenty-three.

Moving on to another positive note, at the beginning of January, the EU released Poland's frozen funds worth more than eighty billion dollars because the new government has taken the first steps to restore the rule of law in the country. On the same day, the European Commission announced that the Polish economy will grow by almost three percent this year and three and a half next year, thanks to these funds.

Let’s move forward to Polish and Russian relations. On Thursday, the 15th, Poland's top leaders paid their tributes after Russia's opposition leader, Alexei Navalny, died in a prison in Russia. Navalny was against Putin's regime and supported a democratic and friendly Russia, but the Putin regime put his efforts to an end and sentenced Navalny to nineteen years in prison for embezzlement and extremism. President Andrzej Duda expressed his condolences to Navalny's family and posted on Twitter that Navalny's legacy will last longer than Putin’s regime. Donald Tusk, the prime minister, also tweeted, saying that Poles will never forget Navalny or forgive Putin for his crimes. After his death, Russian expats organized a rally to protest against Putin’s regime in front of the Russian embassy in Warsaw.

On a related note, on Monday, the 18th, Radosław Sikorski, the minister of foreign affairs, attended the EU's Munich Security Conference. He demanded more sanctions on Russia after the death of Navalny from the EU. Sikorski also criticized the EU for not pressuring Russia with stronger economic sanctions and not giving further help to Ukraine. Regarding the conflict between Israel and Hamas, Sikorski said Israel and Palestine should agree on a two-state solution and exist simultaneously, something Israel has been rejecting.

The widespread farmer protests continue in EU countries and Poland after the EU announced the new climate change policies which impose more restrictions on farmers using pesticides and higher limits on greenhouse gas emissions. Apart from the climate change policies, Polish farmers protest against cheap Ukrainian agricultural products. On Sunday, the 18th, French, German, Dutch, and Belgian farmers arrived in Poland and joined farmers in blocking the border between Poland and Ukraine. The farmers sealed up the Dorohusk-Yahodyn crossing, so trucks couldn’t pass through. The ongoing protests against cheap Ukrainian agricultural products, which reduced European farmers' income, have made it more difficult for Ukrainian trucks to transport grain from Ukraine to the EU.

Speaking of Ukraine, on Saturday the 16th, the Public Opinion Research Center Foundation published its study on Ukrainian immigrants in Poland. The majority of Ukrainian immigrants who participated in the survey said that Poland offers better job opportunities and better life conditions than what Ukraine gave them before the war. On the other hand, most participants experienced many difficulties with the health care system and bureaucracy. Ukrainians are also concerned about a possible worsening of Polish-Ukrainian relations due to the rising economic competition between the two countries and some Polish people attacking and discriminating against Ukrainians.

Warsaw, the capital and the most populated city in Poland with over two million people, usually hosts the biggest and best art events. However, on Friday the 16th, Toruń, with a population of 200 thousand, opened the biggest exhibition space in the country, and on Saturday, the 17th, it launched a new exhibition called the New Expression, the art movement belonging to the nineteen eighties. The exhibition displays works that the public has not seen anywhere before, showing the development of anti-communist art during the years of the Soviet invasion. The exhibition takes place in the Center for Contemporary Art in Toruń and you can attend it for only five dollars. For more information, follow the link in the show notes!

Still, Warsaw is not falling behind Toruń. Warsaw's Norblin Factory venue has opened an exhibition titled Frida Kahlo: The Life of an Icon, which honors ninety-five years of Polish-Mexican relations. It displays the life and work of famous Mexican artists with the help of modern technologies to increase the interaction and interest of the visitors.

More on culture, the upcoming movie release about Polish cooperation with Nazi Germans in World War II sparked off a public debate in the country. Biała Odwaga, or White Courage, will be released in cinemas in March. It will show the wartime crimes of a group of Polish mountain people called Górale, who collaborated with Nazi Germans against Jews during World War II. However, historical experts on Polskie Radio media said there were only a very small number of Poles who supported Nazi Germans during World War II, and Górale is one of them. The Institute for National Remembrance mentioned that the movie may exaggerate Poles' cooperation with Nazi Germans and cause people to believe that Poles were involved in the Holocaust.

In science news, from the 6th to the 8th of September the city of Kraków will host the largest robotics and space event in Europe called the European Rover Challenge. The European Space Foundation, the organizer of the event, has chosen thirty-five teams from the most prestigious universities around the world to compete. The teams will design robots capable of executing tasks on Marsyard, a Mars-like terrain that simulates the real space environment on Mars. Representatives from the European Space Agency and NASA, will attend the event. To know more, click on the link in the show notes!

And to close this edition, on Monday, the 19th, the Institute of Geophysics of the Polish Academy of Sciences announced that Polish geochemist Monika Kusiak will attend NASA's mission to research the first formation of the Earth. Kusiak is a successful academician in the geochemistry of early Earth isotopes and has received a lot of scholarships in Poland. In NASA, she will examine ancient minerals from Mars and the Moon and try to see if they also existed on Earth. Some scientists believe that these three planets were a single block at the beginning of the universe but were separated by an explosion.

Thank you so much to everyone that filled in the survey over the past few weeks, we really appreciate your comments and ideas. Many of you mentioned you would like to get some more in depth episodes and interviews, is that something you would like? Do you have any topics in mind? Something specific about that you want to know more about for us to do a special show on? We want to do some new things very soon! Please email us at info@rorshok.com. The survey is still linked in the show notes if you are interested in that as well.

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