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19th Jan 2019

Polish government: Hawks, doves, and bankers

  • Kaczynski said Polish finance chiefs chosen to attract investors (Photo: pis.org.pl)

The new Polish government will contain hawkish foreign and defence ministers, a mild-mannered MEP, and an investor-friendly banker.

Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the head of the Law and Justice party, which won last month’s elections, unveiled the cabinet, together with incoming PM Beata Szydlo, in Warsaw on Monday (9 November).

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They named Witold Waszczykowski as foreign minister and Antoni Macierewicz as defence chief.

Waszczykowski, Poland’s former ambassador to Iran, is a staunch Atlanticist. He advocates robust US and Nato treatment of Russia, along the lines of US Republican Party senator John McCain.

Macierewicz is a former counter-intelligence chief.

He believes Russia orchestrated the Smolensk air disaster in 2010, which killed dozens of top Polish officials.

The nominations indicate Poland will take a hard line on Russia sanctions and push for Nato bases in eastern Europe next year.

Waszczykowski on Monday said Poland has bad relations with Russia because it invaded Georgia and Ukraine.

He also urged Moscow to hand over Smolensk debris.

Doves?

Security issues aside, the refugee crisis, global warming, and the economy will feature on Poland’s EU agenda.

Mariusz Blaszcak, a softly-spoken former historian, is to handle EU refugee relocations as minister of home affairs.

He said on Monday that Europe has agreed to accept “160,000 Muslims,” in a phrase which reveals Law and Justice’s mentality on the issue.

But he’s less aggressive than Zbigniew Ziobro, the new justice minister, whom some call “Poland’s Orban”, by comparison with Hungary’s right-wing leader.

Poland’s day-to-day EU relations, including next year’s talks on how to share the burden of CO2 cuts, will be handled by the dove-ish Konrad Szymanski.

The new EU affairs minister, in his 10 years as an MEP, earned a reputation as a mild-mannered pragmatist.

On the finance front, Law and Justice, in its election campaign promised voters to lower the retirement age and boost welfare.

Bankers

But the new economy minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, and finance minister, Pawel Szalamacha, are seen as prudent and pro-business.

Morawiecki, who will coordinate the work of all finance-related ministries, studied in Germany and the US and is head of a successful bank - Bank Zachodni WBK.

Szalamacha studied at the College of Europe in Bruges, a school for EU officials, and worked at London-based law firm Clifford Chance.

Kaczynski told press on Monday the Morawiecki nomination is “designed to ensure more [foreign] investment in Poland.”

He said he “doesn’t need to jutsify” his choice of Beata Szydlo, a coal miner’s daughter and career politician, to be PM.

But Polish pundits believe that Kaczynski, who is Russia-hostile and euro-prickly, will be the real power behind the throne.

Debut

The new government must present its programme and pass a confidence motion before assuming office.

The procedure will wrap up shortly after the Polish parliament meets on Thursday.

Thursday’s session means outgoing PM Ewa Kopacz will miss the EU summit on migration in Valletta.

But it means Waszczykowski is likely to make his EU debut at a foreign ministers’ meeting on 16 November, while Macierewicz will meet EU defence chiefs the next day.

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