Poland Monthly Digest: teachers strike, and Supreme Court reforms draw warnings3 min read

 In Central Europe, News, Politics

– 30 years ago, on April 5th, 1989 round table negotiations ended in Poland with the signing of an agreement between the communists and representatives of the democratic opposition and Catholic Church. The Polish Round Table Talks were groundbreaking, launching a transformation in Poland and led to the country’s first somewhat free elections.

– A teachers’ strike began on April 8th. Teachers are demanding better wages, higher subsidies on education, and changes in the professional evaluation process. In the course of negotiations, one of the nations’ three teachers’ unions, Solidarity, was able to reach an agreement with the government, but the other two unions rejected it, leading to teacher walk-outs. (More in Politico.) Later on April 25th, the President of the Polish Teachers’ Union suspended the strike, ostensibly for the sake of the country’s school children, who are due to write exams soon. Read more in The New York Times.

– Following last month’s story on child abuse in the Polish Catholic Church, on April 9th, the Primate of Poland publicly apologized to all victims of clerical abuse within the country.

– On April 11th, Advocate General Evgeni Tanchev of the European Court of Justice warned listeners that judicial reforms launched by the ruling party Law and Justice (PiS) which subject judges to external intervention are weakening the Supreme Court. The reform in question relates to lowering the retirement age of Supreme Court judges and pressuring judges who have reached retirement age to step down unless they issue a special request to the President.

The reform was introduced last year when First President of the Supreme Court Małgorzata Gersdorf refused to retire, insisting that she would serve until the end of her term in 2020. More on this from Reuters.

– On April 15th, First Deputy Minister of Justice Patryk Jaki announced in a radio interview for RMF FM that the Ministry was drafting bill to elect modern Poland’s first Justice of the Peace, who is to be chosen by general election. The Deputy Minister said that “the vast majority of judges should be elected by the people”.

– April 17th was the deadline for parties and coalitions to register for the European elections scheduled this year in May. (Read more about the parliamentary elections in this handy guide.Nine bodies were registered by the National Electoral Commission, which further conducted an open draw to determine the committees’ position on the electoral ballots.

  • Electoral Committee Confederation, Korwin, Braun. Liroy, Nationals – No. 1.
  • Electoral Committee Sprig of Robert Biedroń – No. 2.
  • Electoral Committee European Coalition PO, PSL, SLD, .N, Green – No. 3.
  • Electoral Committee Law and Justice – No. 4.
  • Electoral Committee United Left – Together Party, Labor Union, RSS – No. 5.
  • Electoral Committee Kukiz’15 – No. 6.
  • Electoral Committee Fair Play Nonpartisan Gwiazdowski – No. 7.
  • Electoral Committee True Europe Movement – Europa Christi – No. 8.
  • Electoral Committee Polexit – Coalition – No. 9.

– On April 19th, Ombudsperson Adam Bodnar in a radio interview for TOK FM accused PiS of taking further control over the Supreme Court via their recent reforms. The Supreme Court amendment to the law would give authority to the Disciplinary Committee of the Supreme Court to suspend the immunity of judges in some instances. The amendment would also give the President power to nominate a new First President of the Supreme Court in case of an impasse in the National Assembly.

– On April 20th, Warsaw commemorated the 76th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising during Nazi Germany occupation. The uprising began on April 19th, 1943, due to ghetto liquidation. Jews fought against the Nazis for a month; many died, but a few Jewish prisoners escaped from the Warsaw Ghetto, which was the largest in occupied Europe.   

Main sources: PAP (PL), PKW – National Electoral Committee (PL), Politico (EN), Reuters (EN), The New York Times (EN)

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