Central Europe Review: politics,
society and culture in Central and Eastern Europe
Vol 1, No 8, 16 August 1999

Last Week in Poland C E N T R A L   E U R O P E A N   N E W S:
Last Week in Poland
News from Poland since 6 August 1999

Compiled by Joanna Rohozinska and Donosy-English

Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek said that the government is working on a reprivatization law which will include everyone, not simply be limited to specific minorities such as the Plish-Jews. He noted the "undiplomatic form: of the Jewish suit in an American court (in the suit there is talk of a "cleansing of the country of Jews" etc.). Poland feels that the Polish-American agreement of 1960 has taken care of these claims. (Poland paid USD 640 million in exchange for the renunciation of further claims by American citizens). The Americans claim that the agreement affected only people who were American citizens in 1944-45, although some of the recipients (including one complainant in the current, on-going suit) received citizenship only later.

In trying to get their prewar property back, leaders of the Polish Real Estate Owners Union (PUWN) are confronting a reluctant government. The government discussed the draft of the property restitution (reprivatization) law on 3 August. No important decisions were made, but the government is said to be planning to return property only to Polish citizens and to reduce compensation by 40 percent. However, this still means that property worth 60 billion alotys will be privatized.

Quite the season for pilgrimages as the 19th Warsaw Academic Pilgrimage to Jasna Gora (in Czestochowa) began with some 5,000 school and university students together with some 700 soldiers, who are walking the 300 km route under the slogan "Road to the Father."

Plans for a shorter work week was announced by the Council of Ministers. It envisages a reduction by the year 2001, either by reducing hours from 42 to 40 hours or by introducing more Saturdays off which the trade unions have been demanding.

The directory of the Polish cemetery in Lwow ordered a Polish firm working there to leave Lwow in protest their inaction to recent acts of vandalism and generally not respecting the rules. The dispute centers on the fact that the workers did not remove Polish signs as ordered. The Polish authorities plan to formally complain to the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry.

Due to the threat of forest fires in most areas of the country entry is currently forbidden under penalty of a large fine.

The United Nations' Committee on Human Rights has praised Poland for the progress it has made in protecting human rights, but did note that discrimination against women continues to be an issue as is the slowness of the justice system. In response, the Polish government promised to fight discrimination against women.

Most of the striking unionists gave up the occupation of the Siersza mine and approved of the compromise achieved in negotiations with the management of Vistula Coal Company (Nadwislanska Spolka Weglowa). As a result of the talks, the decision was made to establish a new company in which the mine, the Siersza energy plant and the city of Trzebinia would be involved. The deal will be discussed in more detail with the participation of the company's potential investors. The mine itself will have to be liquidated in order to produce the investment resources. Half of the 1600 workers will be able to keep their jobs, the other half will have the chance for employment in other nearby plants. The process will start 1 September, and the Vistula Coal Company will have fifty percent of the new company's shares.

Billboards featuring nudity have prompted a backlash among conservative Poles. The advertisers have launched a counter offensive. When about 1800 billboards with nude and scantily clad models appeared on the streets of major cities across Poland in April causing a lot of controversy. One advertising pantyhose featured a model wearing only a pair of sheer hose from her waist down.

Polish BIG BG Bank has applied to the Banking Supervision Commission for permission to hold over 75 percent in small regional bank BWR, BIG said in a statement. "The management of BIG Bank Gdanski has applied...for permission to buy shares of Bank Wspolpracy Regionalnej SA (BWR)...giving it the right to over 75 percent of votes at the shareholders' meeting," BIG said. BIG, which does not currently hold any BWR shares, is one of three institutions interested in buying the troubled regional bank, but BWR's spokesman said that his bank has not yet chosen the buyer.

Polish stocks drifted lower this week on growing worries about the economic outlook, but analysts said they should stabilise next week with investors lulled into a holiday mood. "The bourse will keep an eye on Western bourses next week, but the turnover should remain minimal and the market will not move radically in any direction," said Marek Juras, analyst at Erste Securities in Warsaw.

With new hope for peace in the Middle East, Foreign Minister Bronislaw Geremek leads a delegation to see how Poland can help. After the success of Poland's Western foreign policy the country now aims to reestablish its political influence in other parts of the world. It has declared its willingness to help with the peace process in one of the most troubled and complicated regions: the Middle East. A Polish delegation headed by Foreign Minister Geremek visited Syria, Lebanon and Jordan in the last days of July.

Poland's Justice Ministry has requested the extradition from Britain of a Stalinist-era prosecutor on charges related to the execution of a Second World War resistance hero. "The Minister has asked the British Justice Ministry (Home Office) to temporarily arrest and extradite colonel Helena Wolinska," the ministry's spokeswoman Barbara Makosa-Stepkowska told Reuters. Helena Wolinska-Brus, now a British citizen living in Oxford, is accused of signing illegal arrest warrants that allowed communist authorities to jail and later execute August Fieldorf, a general in the AK (Armja Krajowa - Home Army) which resisted Nazi occupation from 1939 to 1945. A spokesman for Britain's Home Office said it did not comment on individual cases of extradition. Fieldorf, alias Nil and deputy commander in Poland of the underground resistance, was arrested in 1951 and executed in 1953 for allegedly trying to overthrow the communist state. After the 1989 fall of communism he was posthumously cleared of the charges, which stemmed from the Soviet-dominated communist party's fears that the AK would foster resistance to Moscow's post-war influence. In response to these charges the 80 year-old Helena Wolinska-Brus told BBC radio: "It's a political problem. I didn't handle the case. This is a lie that I was a prosecutor in the trial."

Food prices kept declining in the last two months and in the last ten days of July they were 1.1 percent lower than a month before, the Central Statistical Office said.

The Public Opinion Research Centre (CBOS) has conducted polls on the bias of influence within the coalition AWS-UW. In the last six months, the popularity of AWS (Solidarity Election Action) has dropped by 15 percent, while that of UW (Union of Freedom) has risen 7 percent. Electors of both parties find the UW more stable and influential. They say that even though the AWS has the majority within the coalition, it is the Union that always has the last say. The UW members are viewed as better disciplined and know their priorities. The co-operation of the two parties within the coalition is poorly evaluated, yet only eight percent are likely to predict the government's soon falling apart.

When, in the beginning of May, deputies from KPN-O (Confederation for and Independent Poland-Homeland) appealed to public interest spokesman Boguslaw Nizienski, for deposing a screening motion (i.e., checking past involvement with the former Communist Party) against Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek, he refused to do so. Now those same deputies want to sue him. They claim the spokesman did not fulfil his duty, which was to put the case before the screening tribunal against Buzek and four other deputies from SLD (Democratic Left Alliance) and UW (Union of Freedom).

Compiled by Joanna Rohozinska and Donosy-English, 15 August 1999


Gazeta Wyborcza

Prawo i Gospodarka

Zycie Warszawy


Donosy's Week in Poland appears in Central Europe Review with the kind permission of Donosy-English:
Donosy-Polish Editors: Lena Bialkowska (Editor-in-Chief), Michal Jankowski, Michal Pawlak, Ksawery Stojda (founder)
Copyright (c) 1999
Donosy-English editors and translators: Lidia Trojanowska and Lawrence Schofer
Circulation: Wojtek Bogusz
We welcome your comments and suggestions concerning Donosy-English. Please contact Lawrence Schofer at ljschofer@bee.net
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