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Polish report
by Euro Reporter
2014-04-07 10:51:59
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Poland's PM says NATO to boost military presence within weeks

poland_400_01NATO will strengthen its presence in Poland within weeks, Prime Minister Donald Tusk said on Saturday, a move that could help allay fears in eastern European states for their security after Russia's seizure of Ukraine's Crimea region. Tusk spoke three days after foreign ministers from the U.S.-led alliance ordered military commanders to devise plans for reinforcing NATO defences among its eastern European members, including Poland, a neighbour of Ukraine. Russia's annexation of Crimea after the fall of Ukraine's pro-Russian president to mass protests has caused the deepest crisis in East-West relations since the Cold War, when most east European countries were under Soviet domination from Moscow.

But, in an apparent gesture to minimize the risk of any conflict with Russia, NATO has suggested it is more likely to beef up eastern European security through rotating reinforcements rather than permanent basing of substantial additional combat forces there. "The strengthening of NATO's presence (in Poland), also military presence, has become a fact and will be visible in the coming days, weeks," Tusk told the broadcaster TVN. "The discussion is not about if, but rather about the scale, pace and some technical aspects of strengthening Poland's security."

Military planners have been asked to come back with detailed ideas by April 15. A NATO official said it was premature to give details as planners are still working on options. But the measures could include sending NATO soldiers and equipment to eastern European allies for short-term reinforcements and exercises, as well as ensuring NATO's rapid-reaction force could deploy more quickly. Poland, which spent more than four decades under the sway of the Soviet Union in a divided Europe after World War Two, is eager to see more U.S. troops based on its soil. Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski said earlier this week that Warsaw would be "fully satisfied" if NATO stationed two heavy brigades in Poland. But that seems unlikely.


Less foreigners working illegally in Poland

Checks carried out by the State Labour Inspectorate indicate that the number of foreigners employed illegally in Poland has dropped by a quarter since 2012. The State Labour Inspectorate investigated close to 2000 companies known to employ foreigners and found that only 494 workers did not have the necessary permits. Some three quarters of those who did not have the correct paperwork were Ukrainians, mostly in jobs that involved manual labour.

Technically, Ukrainians, Russians, Belarusians, Moldovans, Georgians and Armenians (the latter as of January 2014) do not need a full work permit, provided that the period of employment does not exceed a total of six months per year. However, employers must still notify the labour office that such a worker is being hired, while also clarifying that the worker has a valid temporary residence permit. After six months, a full work permit is essential, and in 2013, 40,000 such permits were issued to foreigners working in Poland.

Although the number of illegally employed foreigners appears to have dropped by a quarter since 2012, and almost by half since 2011, the statistics represent only part of the picture. Dr. Malgorzata Starczewska-Krzysztoszek of employers' association Lewiatan told the Gazeta Wyborcza daily said that the checks “only covered a fragment of the market and the scale of illegal employment of foreigners is definitely bigger." A lot of the work is seasonal, and Polish regions bordering Belarus and Ukraine invariably take in large numbers of migrant workers each year, and it is believed that many employers do not file the correct paperwork.


Germany returns art stolen by Nazis in 1939 to Poland

Germany has returned an 18th Century painting that was looted from Poland's National Museum by the Nazis in 1939. The piece by Venetian artist Francesco Guardi, entitled "Palace Stairs", was taken shortly after Germany invaded.  The small painting depicts noblemen talking at the grand stairs of Venice's Doge Palace. Berlin hopes the move will revive talks over some 300,000 documents, including manuscripts by Mozart and Beethoven, that it wants to recover from Poland.  German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier handed the work over to his Polish counterpart Radoslaw Sikorski at a ceremony on Monday. After World War Two, the painting went to the University of Heidelberg and then to the State Gallery of Baden-Wuerttemberg.

It was recognised as belonging to Poland in the late 1990s.  But political differences between Warsaw and Berlin over the broader issue of art lost during the war prevented a deal from being reached sooner. "This painting has been on a long odyssey," Mr Steinmeier said.  "[It represents] the difficult history that connects our two countries." Poland is still searching for thousands of artefacts looted from its museums and private collections during the war, although many items are believed to have been destroyed during the war. Mr Steinmeier said he hoped the move would "be a signal to restart the stalled German-Polish dialogue on cultural artefacts".

Germany has long sought the return of some 300,000 books, drawings and manuscripts - known as the Berlinka collection - from Poland.  The collection includes handwritten musical scores by Mozart, Beethoven and Bach that the Nazis moved to Poland to keep them safe from bombing during the war.  Abandoned by retreating German troops in what is now Poland, many of the items are now held by the Jagiellonian University in Krakow.


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