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Vol 2, No 32
25 September 2000
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News from Poland
All the important news
since 17 September 2000

Joanna Rohozińska

Suggested speed

A new speed limit, of 50 km per hour, ten km less than previously allowed, was introduced in Warsaw this week. But the attempt to slow down the traffic in order to improve road conditions in the centre of town came to naught. Traffic jams still prevailed and not many more policemen were in evidence to enforce the new regulations. Moreover, the majority of drivers either forgot about them, or simply ignored them.

Most probably realised that the police's threats over the past few weeks about cracking down on fast drivers was finally nothing but a lot of hot air. By the end of the day, police had written out the normal number of traffic tickets.

Earlier this week, five presidential candidates—Marian Krzaklewski, Dariusz Grabowski, Jan Łopuszanski, Jan Olszewski, and Lech Wałęsa-registered their opposition to the managers of national television—Andrzej Kwiatkowski, Robert Kwiatkowski, and Sławomir Zieliński-and events surrounding the previewing of election broadcasts.

The candidates stated that they were afraid the managers would inform incumbent President Aleksander Kwaśniewski about the content of their campaign programs in advance of the broadcasts because they had been members of the President's election team in 1995. They were given the posts despite stipulations in the election law that the previewing commission should consist only of technicians and legal experts. Andrzej Kwiatkowski resigned later in the week over these allegations.


Keep on trucking?

Polish truck drivers seem to have seen too many other protests over the years, so much so that they seem to find it difficult to get excited by another one. Police reported that only some 500 trucks, out of over 20,000, took part in the 15 September go-slow protest over high fuel prices.

If the representative of Poland's Association of International Hauliers wants his assertion to Reuters to be taken seriously (that unless the government begins 'serious talks' with the truckers on fuel prices, they will start blocking refineries and fuel distribution points in actions similar to those witnessed recently in Western Europe) he might want to make sure he has the cooperation of more than 2.5 per cent of his association’s members.


Credit due

Britain's Duke of York presented Poland with a model of the Enigma machine, the Nazi era coding machine, in a symbolic gesture recognising Poland's role in helping to break the top-secret system. Poland has long demanded that the role of three pre-war mathematicians, Marian Rejewski, Jerzy Rozycki and Henryk Zygalski be adequately acknowledged. Prince Andrew told Polish Prime Minister, Jerzy Bużek, that the Allies could not have broken the Enigma military encoding system without Poland's contribution.

The Poles were working on the code for years before the British at Benchley Park [The centre where German codes and ciphers were worked on, home of the world's first computer] got to work and finally allowed the Allies to decode Nazi military messages and thus significantly helping the war effort. In July 1939 Poland gave Britain and France replicas of the Enigma encoding machine along with the all the work Polish mathematicians had done on it to that point.

Bużek asked Britain on Monday to change the Encyclopaedia Britannica entry on the Enigma to credit Poles for their role in breaking the code. After the ceremony, Bużek told reporters that "His Royal Highness is interested in the problem and I believe that thanks to his support the entry will be changed." "The Enigma codes would not have been broken if it were not for the knowledge of Polish mathematicians," the Prince said.


Thieves with taste

A [Claude} Monet, hanging in the Polish National Museum, in Poznań, worth around USD 1 million, was cut from its frame and replaced with a forgery, according to police spokesman Andrzej Borowiak. The forgery of Pourville Beach, painted in 1882, was noticed Tuesday but it was not known when the swap was carried out. Though theft from private collections and churches has not been uncommon, this is the first major theft in years for the National Museum, its divisions or other state-run galleries.


Don't let them get home

Organisations of Polish employers protested this week that a new draft labour law that would shorten the working week from 42 hours to 40, would make Polish firms less competitive because it would boost labour costs. "Shortening working hours by five per cent means lowering employment by about four per cent," said Andrzej Wilk, head of the Private Employers Confederation. However, employers may have no choice since the bill enjoys the support of not only the ruling Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS), but also the opposition Democratic Left Alliance (SLD).


Just say no?

The Sejm voted, by a margin of 367 to 18 with two abstentions, to amend the 1997 anti-drugs law. The bill sets rather tough jail terms, up to three years for possession of any quantity and any kind, and even prescribes jail time (two years) for bar owners who fail to notify the police about drug transactions on their premises. It has so far been legal in Poland to carry small quantities of drugs for personal use.

AWS representative Andrzej Wawak explain that "drug pushers have used this regulation to build big sale networks. This bill will make it impossible." The bill still has to pass through the Senate and be signed by the president before it comes into force. Dealers now face up to ten years in jail. Advocates say it will help crack down on Poland's multi-billion-dollar drugs trade, which has flourished since 1989, that has earned Poland the reputation of being a major supplier of amphetamines {Speed) to Western Europe and a main transit route for drugs coming from Asia and Latin America to EU countries.

On the flip side, as Marek Kotański, chief of Monar (a private charity helping addicts), argues that the bill "is not directed against the right target. Police will now arrest and stigmatise children and drug addicts, who are in fact ill people...If the bill is now treated seriously, courts will be clogged and paralysed. Where are the funds for police and the judicial system to make this law operational?"

Joanna Rohozińska, 22 September 2000

Moving on:


Gazeta Wyborcza
Prawo i Gospodarka
Zycie Warszawy
Polska Agencja Prasowa

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Culture Calendar:


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