Shucking and jiving
In a natural progression of the bail-out trend within the ruling Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS) coalition the Conservative People's Party (SKL) has left and signed an alliance accord with recently formed Citizens' Platform (PO). The pledge from the SKL Political Council of continued support to Prime
Minister Jerzy Buzek's cabinet didn't seem to impress the Prime Minister too much. He commented that the decision is not good "for the building of unity and force of the Polish right wing."
Ostensibly, it is precisely for this reason that the SKL made its move. "The interests of Poland demand the creation of a wide and strong alternative to leftist ideas. With this goal in mind, SKL and Citizens' Platform leaders decided to combine efforts," SKL said in a statement. Solidarity trade union leader Marian Krzaklewski was more clearly unnerved by the move calling it "a sort of political betrayal." For the PO's part, one of its leaders, Maciej Plazynski, noted "We have expected that."
However, another PO leader, Donald Tusk, stated that despite the new relationship the PO will not form an election coalition with the SKL. Analysts said the move could push the Solidarity bloc further to the right, encouraging them to work more closely with religious or nationalistic elements. "The Solidarity bloc can be expected to draw closer to more radical elements... with a pronounced nationalist character," said political scientist Edmund Wnuk-Lipinski.
A report authored by the non-governmental Stefan Batory Foundation and the Polish Public Affairs Institute warned that the effect of imposing a strict visa regime, effectively dividing Europe again, would be to damage the image of the EU in eastern Europe and undercut the position of pro-Western reformers.
"Already today it is evident that it is indeed the issue of borders that leads to the identification of the European Union enlargement process as representing a threat from the West, leading to marginalisation and exclusion," it said. "We think that the Schengen agreement was tailored to the needs of the early 1990s and today it is too tight and soon will be out of date," said Piotr Jaworski of the Polish Public Affairs Institute.
The agreement has particularly acute ramifications for Poland's relations with its eastern neighbours, Belarus, Russia and Ukraine, whose citizens can still travel visa-free. The report suggested a liberal policy of national visas to soften the impact of the Schengen treaty.
A new right-wing political grouping, Alternatywa, announced this week that it would oppose the view of all mainstream political parties that EU entry would benefit Poland. The group is a collection of more than 40 tiny parties and associations and warns that EU membership would strip Poland of its national sovereignty and corrupt the predominantly Catholic nation with Western liberal values.
One of the group's leaders, Janina Kraus, stated "We will not consent to a demotion of our state and a moral degradation." Though the general public mood is in favour of accession some analysts warn that they could gain popularity if the talks continue to drag. "With an efficient campaign and some positive slogans they may pass the five percent threshold needed to enter parliament," said Andrzej Rychard, a sociologist at the Academy of Science.
Polish-Jewish relations revisited
The Jedwabne case has been dominating the media of late and it is doubtful to ease quickly. Jan T Gross' book Neighbours has re-opened the whole ugly can of worms surrounding the 10 July 1941 murder of some 1600 Jews in the northeastern town. The mass murder had previously been attributed to the Nazi occupiers but the book shifts the blame on to the shoulders of the local Polish population.
Polish public reactions have been as diverse and divided as ever, reflecting the eternal paradox in Polish-Jewish relations. Adam Michnik, editor-in-chief of Gazeta Wyborcza, penned a lengthy commentary that appeared simultaneously in Gazeta and the New York Times. Leon Kieres, head of the National Remembrance Institute, said he will soon order an investigation into a 1941 pogrom of Jews in Radziłowo in northeast Poland. Several hundred Jews were murdered in Radziłowo on 7 June 1941, allegedly in a similar manner as in nearby Jedwabne.
The inscription on a monument in Radzilowo says 800 Jews died there in 1941 at the hands of the fascists. The National Remembrance Institute is also currently investigating the Jedwabne massacre.
President Aleskander Kwaśniewski's efforts to mend ties with Jews, which include plans for public apology for Jedwabne, were undermined this week when his top foreign policy aide had to apologise for taking part in the 1968 anti-Semitic campaign launched by the then Communist authorities.
However, Andrzej Majkowski rejected calls to quit even after a newspaper published past remarks in which he demanded "effective cleansing of the party and the state apparatus of Zionists and revisionists... No-one will shut our mouths with allegations of anti-Semitism when we expose Zionists and their racist ideology."
"It was a mistake of my youth, which I never repeated again," Majkowski told a news conference. "I can only say I am sorry that I let myself get involved in this situation... I have never been an anti-Semite," he said. Jerzy Wierchowicz, a leader of the centrist Freedom Union (UW), said Majkowski was undermining the president's credibility and should be dismissed.
As expected, President Kwaśniewski vetoed the property restitution bill that was passed by parliament earlier this month following lengthy and controversial debates. Kwaśniewski's decision leaves Poland as the only former East Bloc country without legislation stipulating compensation for the property seized by the Communist regime.
Kwaśniewski commented that the bill is flawed and would prove too costly for Poland. The parliament is unlikely to muster the necessary two-thirds majority to override the veto.
Joanna Rohozińska, 23 March 2001
Prawo i Gospodarka
Polska Agencja Prasowa
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