Weekly Round-Up of Polish News Developments
Monday night’s crossing of the border from Belarus into Poland by three unidentified armed and uniformed men brought a swift response from the Ministerstwo Spraw Zagranicznych, Poland’s foreign ministry. The Belarusian Chargé d’Affaires in Warszawa was summoned to the ministry the next day to hear a stern protest over the incident and a warning that such provocations will not be tolerated. The incident highlights once again the volatile geopolitical situation on Poland’s eastern border, where her neighbours include Russia, Belarus and Ukraine. It also emphasises the potential for the current tense situation on the border to turn into something even more dangerous.
The main news stories over the past week have included:
- Poland delivers a stern protest to Belarus over an alleged cross-border incursion on Monday night
- Narodowy Bank Polski raises a key reference interest rate in a rapid response to the 6.8% October inflation rate
- Prime Minister Morawiecki emphasises the need for a ‘just transition’ to carbon neutrality at the COP26 summit in Glasgow, and
- Poles mark the All Saints’ Day long weekend with millions visiting the graves of loved one.
The past week has seen a further escalation of tensions between Poland and Belarus over the situation on their common frontier. On Wednesday the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Warszawa said it had summoned the Belarusian Chargé d’Affaires following an armed incursion into Polish territory on Monday night. In a statement the Ministry said that the ‘Chargé d’Affaires of the Republic of Belarus Alexander Chesnovsky was summoned to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on 2 November 2021. He was received by MFA’s Secretary of State, Professor Piotr Wawrzyk. The two officials talked about the intrusion into Polish territory from the territory of the Republic of Belarus of unidentified uniformed individuals armed with long guns. The incident took place on the night of 1 to 2 of November’.
The statement continued that ‘Deputy Foreign Minister Piotr Wawrzyk forwarded an emphatic protest to the Belarusian side against the violation of Polish state border, emphasising that the actions taken by the Belarusian authorities in recent weeks have the increasingly evident hallmarks of a deliberate escalation. The deputy head of Polish diplomacy pointed out that Poland deems such actions unacceptable and will not tolerate them. He highlighted that Poland is determined to defend its borders and the external borders of the European Union. He also communicated that Poland and the Euro-Atlantic community of democratic states will consistently stand opposed to illegal migration orchestrated by Minsk. The deputy foreign minister announced a note of protest to the MFA of the Republic of Belarus and urged the Belarusian side to explain the incident immediately’.
The head of the Polish Border Guard has sent a letter to his Belarusian counterpart requesting an explanation for the incident, while security services spokesperson Stanisław Żaryn commented that ‘Lukashenko’s provocations are getting more dangerous. On Tuesday night Polish soldiers saw on the territory of Poland 3 uniformed people with long guns. When they met a Polish patrol, they reloaded their weapons and went away towards Belarus’.
On Wednesday President Duda signed the bill approved by parliament last month to build a border wall on the frontier with Belarus in an attempt to stem the influx of mainly Middle Eastern migrants into the EU which Poland claims is being deliberately instigated by Belarus. Construction of what’s termed a ‘permanent barrier’ is expected to take several months to complete and cost 1.6 billion złotych.
Partia Republikańska Joins Zjednoczona Prawica Following the ‘Little Turbulence’
Following last week’s cabinet reshuffle Prawo i Sprawiedliwość leader Jarosław Kaczyński has completed further house-keeping within the ruling Zjednoczona Prawica bloc. On Friday the Adam Bielan-led Partia Republikańska was officially brought into the alliance. Kaczyński and Bielan held a news conference with Kaczyński telling reporters that he was ‘very pleased our coalition has a new member’. He said that the two parties had ‘agreed the terms earlier, but we didn’t unveil them until all matters in our coalition have been settled’.
Kaczyński, in reference to the inclusion of the Partia Republikańska, said that ‘It’s a good development and another step towards consigning that little turbulence inside our coalition to history’. The ‘little turbulence’ was of course last August’s dismissal of then Deputy Prime Minister Jarosław Gowin and the departure of his Porozumienie party from the Zjednoczona Prawica. Bielan’s group includes many parliamentarians who were originally in Porozumienie, as indeed was the MEP Bielan himself.
The press conference came a day after Kaczyński announced that the OdNowa (Renewal in English) faction of Deputy Defence Minister Marcin Ociepa was also joining the Zjednoczona Prawica.
Increase Rate Rise After October Inflation Spike to 6.8%
Last Friday Główny Urząd Statystyczny (GUS), (Statistics Poland in English) Poland’s state statistics office, issued its flash estimate for October inflation, which showed a 6.8% increase in year-on-year terms, 0.4% higher than that forecast by most economists. The flash estimate, if confirmed by subsequent final data, represents the highest monthly inflation rate in Poland since May 2001 and will only serve to increase fears that the Polish economy may be overheating. The September inflation rate was 5.9% while August stood at 5.5%, with the rate of price increase in Poland consistently standing at or near the top for countries in the European Union.
The Monetary Policy Council of the country’s central bank, Narodowy Bank Polski, having long resisted pressure to increase interest rates, raised them on October 6th for the first time since 2012 with the reference rate rising from 0.1 to 0.5%. On Wednesday the Monetary Policy Council raised the reference rate again – this time by 75 basis points – to 1.25% in what looked like a response to the alarming inflation figure. In some good economic news Eurostat reported on Wednesday that by its measure unemployment in Poland stood at just 3.4% representing one of the lowest rates in the 27-nation bloc. The figure was unchanged from that for July and August.
Morawiecki Stresses ‘Energy Transition Needs To Be Just’
The COP26 climate change conference has been underway in Glasgow since Sunday with various world leaders outlining their perspective on how to achieve the goal of carbon neutrality. Poland, given its traditional dependence on coal as an energy source, has often found itself in the firing line on such occasions, with Poland’s hosting of the 2018 COP24 summit in Katowice having served to draw attention to the country’s own environmental record.
Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has been vigorous in defending the Polish perspective. Speaking to reporters in Glasgow on Monday he stressed the importance of what’s referred to as a ‘just transition’ which emphasises the different starting points of countries in terms of their responsibility for climate change. Morawiecki said that ‘This is a crucial thing for if we want to tackle climate issues in solidarity, we must be aware that the United States or the rich countries of Western Europe are positioned much differently than those of Central Europe, such as Poland’.
Morawiecki also said that he hoped that the Glasgow summit would build on the work done in Katowice. After his address to the conference on Monday he commented in a social media post that ‘energy transition needs to be just’ and that ‘For Poland to be able to participate in it under fair conditions, we must have appropriate resources, and also, appropriate regulations must be in place in the European Union’.
During the summit Morawiecki had an informal meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden. Referring to the meeting he commented that ‘We have discussed climate challenges and security issues, including energy security, among other topics’. COP26 continues until November 12th.
Aston Villa’s Matty Cash to Reinforce Polish Soccer Side
Well apparently Ireland is far from the only country that seeks to use it’s diaspora to bring quality reinforcements into the national soccer side. On Tuesday of last week the Aston Villa Premier League player Matty Cash was officially granted Polish citizenship by the governor of the central province of Mazowieckie, Konstanty Radziwiłł. The paperwork had been in motion for some time and last week’s announcement followed a meeting between President Andrzej Duda and Cezary Kulesza, the President of the Polish Football Association.
Cash is expected to be included in the Polish squad for the country’s crucial World Cup qualifiers against Andorra and Hungary later this month. The 24-year-old Aston Villa right-back can also double-up as a winger. He was born in Slough, but this mother and grandparents are Polish, hence his eligibility to play for Poland.
Following the meeting Duda had tweeted last week in reference to the impending citizenship decision for Cash ‘Congratulations and good luck on the pitch!’.
Poles Head to Cemeteries for All Saints’ Day
Monday, November 1st, was of course a public holiday in Poland marking All Saints’ Day. The associated long weekend is traditionally an occasion to visit cemeteries, decorate the graves of deceased loved ones, and attend religious services. Poles often travel very long distances to honour this tradition, which following the last minute disruption of last year, was back in force this year with family members lighting candles and laying flowers on the graves of loved ones.
That’s all for this week.
William Murphy writes for Hello Irlandia on political and general news.