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Polish report Polish report
by Euro Reporter
2013-08-27 10:35:33
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Poland premier Donald Tusk slips up in party leadership poll

An attempt by Donald Tusk to strengthen his position at the head of Poland’s ruling Civic Platform party has backfired, leaving the Polish premier gravely weakened when he has already lost support because of the lacklustre economy. Mr Tusk did much worse than expected in a leadership contest in which all 42,000 Civic Platform members were for the first time eligible to take part. He had hoped to affirm his authority with an overwhelming victory. Instead, the former justice minister Jaroslaw Gowin, a social conservative and economic liberal, took a fifth of the vote. Only about half the party’s membership turned out.

“Although the beginning of the end for Donald Tusk has been announced many times, the blow of these elections could be lethal for him,” said Michal Szuldrzynski, a columnist at the Rzeczpospolita newspaper. “This result is a cold shower for Tusk.” The premier tried to put a brave face when the results were announced on Friday, calling them a “great injection of energy and commitment”. However, his control of Civic Platform is now shakier than ever. Despite Mr Tusk’s call for an end to internal party battles, Mr Gowin made clear he planned to continue his attacks. “I am not interested in a ceasefire,” he said, continuing to hammer at what he says is the government’s failure to follow through on promises to undertake liberal economic reforms. “Because almost two-thirds of Platform’s members refused to support Tusk [either by failing to vote or by supporting Mr Gowin], that means it has become impossible to rule the party single-handedly,” Mr Gowin said in an interview with Rzeczpospolita. Mr Tusk has seen his support both inside the party and among the electorate trickle away over the past year. He is the only Polish democratic leader to win a second term of office, and has been in power for six years; many Poles are simply tired of him.

Another reason for his failing popularity is that Poland’s economy has been pulled down by the wider eurozone crisis, hitting the opinion poll ratings of Mr Tusk’s government. Growth this year is expected to be only 1 per cent, according to the World Bank. With unemployment at 13.1 per cent and business rattled by the slowdown, the mood in the country is sour. Mr Gowin capitalised on those figures by travelling the country attacking Mr Tusk and Jacek Rostowski, the finance minister, for their “catastrophic” economic policies. He has been particularly scathing about the government’s decision to suspend debt limits and to consider amending the pension system to improve public finances. Mr Gowin was fired as justice minister by Mr Tusk because of his social conservatism; he helped kill a proposal to allow for civil unions, which he saw as paving the way for gay marriage. However, he did spend much of his time in the ministry pushing through reforms to liberalise Poland’s hidebound professions. Mr Tusk’s troubles are a boon to the rightwing opposition Law and Justice Party, led by Jaroslaw Kaczynski, which has overtaken Civic Platform in opinion polls in recent months. According to data released on Monday, retail sales grew by an annual 4.3 per cent in July – much faster than expected. Exports are also doing well. But despite these signs of economic revival any rebound is unlikely to be strong enough to bring about a speedy change in Mr Tusk’s political fortunes. Mr Tusk must reaffirm his grip on Civic Platform before next year’s elections for the European parliament and parliamentary and presidential elections in 2015. However, as well as battling Law and Justice, he is facing a powerful internal enemy whose relative success in the leadership contest may spur the political hopes of others such as Grzegorz Schetyna, the party’s deputy leader, who was sidelined by Mr Tusk years ago.

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Poland's jobless rate shrinks to 13.1 percent

Poland’s Government figures show that Poland's jobless rate fell to 13.1 percent at the end of July, compared to 13.2 percent the month before, thanks to seasonal jobs. The state Main Statistical Office released the figures on Monday. It said that some 2.1 million people, out of a population of 38 million, were out of work at the end of July 16,000 less than at the end of June but 140,000 higher than in July 2012, when the jobless rate was 12.3 percent.

The Polish economy has slowed down over the past year, with growth falling from 1.9 percent last year to just over 1 percent expected in 2013. Early this year, unemployment was over 14 percent, but the summer always helps reduce the rate, offering outdoor jobs in agriculture, construction and tourism.

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Poland on collision course with Brussels over ‘illegal’ coal plant

Euro MPs and environmentalists are urging the European Commission to take rapid action to prevent Poland from building two huge new 900MW units at a coal plant, in violation of EU laws on Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS). The Polish Prime Minister, Donald Tusk, has said that he will build the €2.7 billion units in Opole, even though they have not been assessed for CCS-readiness, as required by an EU directive that Warsaw currently faces infringement proceedings for defying. Any Polish success in facing down Brussels on the issue could affect the fate of other European climate laws which the country has not ratified, such as the renewable energy and emissions trading directives. Jo Leinen, a Socialist (S&D) MEP, told EurActiv that the proposed build at Opole was “illegal” and should not take place without adequate modern standards for climate protection. “It is very urgent that the Commission gets active and puts some pressure on the Polish authorities to follow EU rules,” he said. “Opole is a test case for whether our policies are valid or existing only on paper.”

Leinen and five other MEPs from five political groups last month tabled parliamentary questions on the issue to the EU's climate action commissioner, Connie Hedegaard. Emissions from Opole are expected to top 1.5 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide over the next 55 years and could prevent Poland from meeting its target of generating 15% of its energy from renewable sources by 2020, according to a study by the Polish Climate Coalition (PCC). The Polish government says that tighter European Commission emissions controls require it to shut down or upgrade up to 5GW of old polluting coal-fired plants by 2016 and so new capacity is needed to prevent power shortages. But the PCC study found that renewable energy on the Opole plant’s 1.8GW blocks would produce 60% more energy, while reducing carbon emissions six-fold.

The carbon compromise between coal and renewables – CCS technology that could one day transport and bury planet-warming emissions – is not on the Polish table. Poland is the only EU state not to have notified the Commission of any measures it has taken to comply with the CCS directive, which compels space for future technology to be left vacant next to any new coal plants. Two years ago, the Commission launched infringement proceedings against the coal-dependent central European country as a result. But the Polish Prime Minister, Donald Tusk, has made new construction at Opole a litmus of his energy policy – despite concerns about its profitability – and confrontation with Brussels seems likely. “The government will find the funds and a way for this investment to be carried out,” Tusk said on 6 June. Nine months earlier, Poland’s Supreme Court had ruled that Opole's extension was legal, because the government had not written the CCS directive onto national statute.

 


       
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