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Polish report Polish report
by Euro Reporter
2012-01-28 11:05:07
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Poland signs international copyright treaty that has sparked days of protests

Poland on Thursday signed an international copyright agreement which has sparked days of protests by Internet users who fear it will lead to online censorship. Poland’s ambassador to Japan, Jadwiga Rodowicz-Czechowska, signed the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, or ACTA, in Tokyo. Later in the day, hundreds of people took to the streets of the eastern city of Lublin to express their anger over the treaty.

ACTA is a far-reaching agreement that aims to harmonize international standards on protecting the rights of those who produce music, movies, pharmaceuticals, fashion, and a range of other products that often fall victim to intellectual property theft. It shares some similarities with the hotly debated Stop Online Piracy Act in the U.S., which was shelved by lawmakers last week after Wikipedia and Google blacked out or partially obscured their websites for a day in protest.

Poland was one of several European Union countries to sign ACTA Thursday, but it appeared to be the only place where support for the agreement has caused outrage and protests by Internet activists. Rodowicz-Czechowska said other countries that signed included Finland, France, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Romania and Greece. Several other industrialized countries, including the United States, Canada and South Korea, signed the agreement last year.


Debt crisis hardens Euro-sceptics’ antipathy in Poland

Opposition leader Jarosław Kaczynski campaigned for EU membership, but has been outraged by calls for federalism. In Poland, Euro scepticism is the preserve of the conservative Law and Justice party, and its leader, Jarosław Kaczynski. Until last year, he could have been described as a mild sceptic, but the debt crisis has amplified his antipathy. Kaczynski was particularly angered by the November 2011 Berlin speech by the Polish foreign minister, Radosław Sikorski, in which he called for Germany to save the eurozone and proposed creating a European federation. "That man had no right to offer Germany leadership in the European Union," Kaczynski stated after the speech. "What he did is offer Poland an inferior position, the kind we had for decades, but that should not be the aim of Polish foreign policy, to return to a pre-1989 situation."

The call for largesse to rescue the European south riled the former prime minister: "We shouldn't pay for Greece. We were supposed to sit at the European table and feast. But now we are on the menu." Before Poland joined the EU, Kaczynski strongly supported joining the bloc, saying in a television spot before a referendum on the matter: "We support a strong Poland. That's why we are calling for a yes vote for Poland's accession into the EU." He said then that a negative decision would "gladden [Poland's] enemies". Here he was obviously referring to the Russians.

When Kaczynski's party won power in 2005, he didn't alter his rhetoric, even advocating the creation of a European army the following year. During his two years in power, Kaczynski usually added to his slogan "Poland in Europe" the words "as an independent country". This was meant to calm the extremely conservative part of his party's electorate, his anti-Europe coalition partners the League of Polish Families, and Father Tadeusz Rydzyk, and the head of the ultra-conservative Catholic radio station Radio Maryja.


Tusk wants Poland to attend eurozone talks; leaders seek agreement on fiscal compact treaty.

Donald Tusk, Poland's prime minister, is threatening to keep his country out of the nearly-finalised treaty on greater economic discipline, in a dispute over the right to attend eurozone summits. Poland is insisting that it should be allowed to attend eurozone summits even though it is not expected to adopt the euro for several years. Tusk told Polish radio on Tuesday (24 January): “If Poland does not win an appropriate status of participant in the eurozone meetings, which would give us a feeling that we take part in the decision-making process ...we will find it difficult to sign the fiscal pact.”

EU leaders are expected to agree the fiscal compact treaty at a summit in Brussels on Monday (30 January). The treaty has been energetically promoted by Germany as a mechanism to oblige eurozone countries to adhere to strict budget rules and to prevent a repeat of the current debt crisis. Herman Van Rompuy, the European Council president, who will chair the summit, said in December that he hoped as many as 26 leaders would sign up to the treaty. The UK is the only member state that has said from the start that it would remain outside it.

EU officials said that they expected that leaders would agree the treaty at the summit, adding that it would be very difficult to satisfy Poland's demand for greater involvement in eurozone summits. The latest version of the treaty, which was sent to negotiators on 19 January, says that non-eurozone countries would be invited to take part in eurozone summits which were discussing the treaty “at least once a year”. France argues strongly that only eurozone members should take part in single currency summits.

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