Poland. In January, Parliament voted down three legislative proposals that would have given some legal rights to gay couples. through registered partnership. According to Countryaah, Prime 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 a decade.
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 banking world.
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’ Platform.
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 protests.
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 President.
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.