Poland Monthly Digest: spring time in Poland, and a diplomatic crisis with Israel4 min read
– On February, 1st Robert Biedroń, former mayor of Słupsk, former member of parliament, and LGBTQ+ activist, launched a new political party called Spring, set to participate both in this year’s Polish parliamentary elections and European parliamentary elections
“I want to be Prime Minister, and to do that I have to tell my story to the Poles. That is why I am going to parliament this fall. Spring will be ours, and fall will be ours,” Biedroń told TVN24. He has also spoken of establishing a commission to investigate last fall’s alleged constitutional violations (read more about that in: “Lands of settled government: Poland and what really matters for the rule of law”), legalizing abortion before the 12th week, renegotiating the state’s relationship with the Vatican, ending religion classes in schools, and closing coal mines.
– On February 4th, Minister of Foreign Affairs Jacek Czaputowicz announced that Poland would recognize Juan Guaido as interim President of Venezuela. Poland is following France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Spain, Portugal, and the Netherlands, among others, who have all called for current President Nicolás Maduro to step down and hold new elections.
– On February 5th, the Ministry of National Defense unveiled the formation of Cyber Defense Forces within the Polish armed forces. The establishment of a new military branch will be accompanied by the opening of a new communications and IT military academy and high school under the management of the Military Technical Academy.
Minister of Defense Mariusz Błaszczak underlined the necessity of coordination between different fields such as education, science, and security in the establishment of a well-functioning cyberspace defense system, due to its transnational nature. The cyberspace defense system will be also incorporated into the Territorial Defense Force, a militia-type group composed of professional and a volunteer soldiers, and will be modelled after the US National Guard. During the conference, ministers made reference to the NATO 2014 Wales Summit, in which Alliance members agreed that a cyber attack was equal to traditional military use of force, in theory allowing for the use of article 5, on collective defense.
– On February 13th and 14th, Poland hosted the US-led Middle East Summit in Warsaw. The summit was broadly oriented towards regional security, but it was indiscreetly focused mainly on Iran, according to the former Polish Ambassador to Afghanistan. 70 state officials attended the conference, however neither Germany nor France was represented by cabinet-level officials, and Russia, China, Palestine, and the EU Foreign Affairs and Security Policy High Representative Federica Mogherini boycotted the summit for a variety of reasons.
The summit was overshadowed by a diplomatic crisis between Poland and Israel, after Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu was misquoted by Israeli newspapers as saying that Poles had collaborated with the Nazis during the Holocaust. Netanyahu’s office later clarified that he had not been referring to the whole nation, but rather individuals. Later on, acting Minister of Foreign Affairs Israel Katz was quoted saying that “Poles sucked anti-Semitism with their mothers’ milk”.
To defuse the crisis, US Ambassador to Poland Georgette Mosbacher called for Israel to apologise, but on February 17th, when no high-level representatives had done so, Polish PM Mateusz Morawiecki announced his country’s withdrawal from the planned V4 Summit in Israel scheduled for Monday 18th, due to “racist” and “totally unacceptable” statements. Later the same day, Czech PM Andrej Babiš announced that the summit had been canceled, saying “bilateral discussions would take place instead, while the summit may be rescheduled for the second half of this year”. Tensions remain high between Poland and Israel.
– On February 22nd, President of Lithuania Dalia Grybauskaite and President of Poland Andrzej Duda signed a joint declaration on Polish-Lithuanian military cooperation in NATO’s Multinational Divison North-East. The politicians also expressed intent to begin cooperation between the Lithuanian Iron Wolf Mechanized Brigade and the Polish 15th Mechanized Brigade. Increasing military cooperation is in line with NATO frameworks. Both presidents also expressed their concerns over the Nord Stream 2 pipeline as a threat to EU energy security and the sovereignty of Belarus.
– On February 27th, a Supreme Court spokesperson referred to a speech given by President Andrzej Duda while nominating new Supreme Court judges as “outrageous,” and demanded clarification.
Duda had earlier appointed two judges to the newly established Disciplinary Committee and Chamber for Exceptional Assistance and Public Affairs. The two new bodies would are tasked with investigating ethics issues in the judiciary all the way up to the highest levels. The appointment of new judges and the president’s speech came about amid ongoing tensions between the Supreme Court and Duda’s Law and Justice Party, which launched a reform of the legal system in 2015.