Poland. In January, Parliament voted down three
legislative proposals that would have given some legal
rights to gay couples. through registered partnership.
Minister Donald Tusk advocated for the changes, but 46
members from his own party, including the Minister of
Justice, voted with the opposition.
In 2013, Poland was still the only EU country to have
passed through the financial crisis and the euro crisis
without a reduction in GDP. During the period 2008-12, GDP
had grown about 18%, but growth slowed during 2013 and the
first quarter the economy was near recession. For the whole
year, growth was estimated to be 1.3%, the lowest figure in
The press from the economy and from falling opinion
figures forced the government to abandon its strict fiscal
policy. It decided that 51.5% of Poland's state-guaranteed
private pension funds would be transferred to the state in
early 2014, which would provide the opportunity to reduce
central government debt and increase public spending. The
decision was highly controversial and met with harsh
criticism from the opposition, who said it was political
opportunism ahead of the 2015 election.
The reform was controversial even within Tusk's party,
where critics said it could damage business confidence and
discourage some of the party's market-liberal voters.
Tusk had big problems even in the government. In April,
the minister responsible for state-owned companies was
dismissed after being laid on the bed by an agreement
between the Polish gas monopoly and Russian Gazprom on the
construction of gas pipeline via Poland to the west. That
same month, Justice Minister Jarosław Gowin was forced to
leave the government because of a statement that German
researchers at a fertility clinic bought Polish embryos for
experiments. Tusk had previously had conflicts with Gowin,
who was regarded as an informal leader of the conservative
phalanx in Tusk's party.
At the end of the year, the Minister of Transport was
forced to resign after he failed to report the holding of a
wristwatch at a value equivalent to close to SEK 50,000. The
minister was one of Tusk's confidants and had been mentioned
as a possible successor to the prime minister.
Contradictions between Tusk and Finance Minister Jacek
Rostowski were frequently reported during the year, and in a
government change in November, Rostowski was replaced by
Mateusz Szczurek, a 38-year-old business economist from the
Poland's largest power company, state-owned PGE,
shuttered plans in April to build two large coal power
plants in southern Poland when they were not considered
profitable due to falling electricity prices. After a
conflict with the government, the PGE commander resigned at
the end of the year, while Prime Minister Tusk declared that
the coal-fired power plants would be built. Poland has a
number of environmental requirements from the EU to meet,
but Tusk emphasized that Poland should reduce its carbon
dioxide emissions through new technology rather than by
reducing the use of coal.
When Poland was to lead the international climate
conference COP 19 in Warsaw in November, the country was
criticized for hosting a conference with the international
coal industry that week. Poland's involvement was called
into question when the chairman of the Climate Conference,
the Polish Minister of the Environment, was dismissed from
his government during an ongoing climate meeting. However,
he continued to lead the conference work. According to Tusk,
the exchange at the Ministry of the Environment was intended
to accelerate Poland's development of shale gas.
In August, Tusk received record low confidence figures,
only 25% were positive while 62% were dissatisfied with his
work. The government's thin majority in parliament also
diminished when some MPs left the Tusk Party Citizens'
In September, the government was met by extensive
union-led protests, including against the earlier rise in
retirement age and towards reduced job security. For four
days demonstrations were held in Warsaw, and on the last day
about 100,000 people were estimated to take part in the
On Polish National Day in November, right-wing extremists
staged anti-Russian demonstrations that degenerated into
fires, confrontation with riot police and attempts to storm
the Russian embassy in Warsaw. The Russian Federation
demanded an official apology, and it was made by the Polish
During the year, many incidents involving right-wing
flash mobs occurred that disrupted meetings and lectures in
which liberal Western European values were presented. It was
also reported that an increased number of racist or
xenophobic incidents were linked to the far right. Assessors
saw the slowdown in the economy as a cause. Youth
unemployment was noted at 29% during the year, while total
unemployment was around 13%.
To counter the attacks of the right and the success of
the Conservative opposition in public opinion, Prime
Minister Tusk promised at the end of the year to put the
family in focus for government policy going forward. He said
raising the standard of living for ordinary Poles would be
the government's top priority by giving families an
increased share of the more than € 70 billion Poland plans
to use from EU structural funds by 2020.
In October, Tadeusz Mazowiecki, a respected politician
who was Poland's first prime minister after the fall of
communism, passed away. He turned 86 years old.
In a government reform in November, Environment Minister
Marcin Korolec is forced to leave his post, while chairing
the UN International Climate Summit in Warsaw. New Minister
Maciej Grabowski wants to accelerate the environmentally
debated extraction of shale gas in Poland.