Democracy and rights
Democratization and increased freedom is the image spread by Poland after communism. But the controversy is now about the extent to which modern lifestyles and tolerant values should be allowed to change society. A tug of war is ongoing between Poland and the EU, which claims that the ruling party is taking control of the courts. A new media law is also considered to have taken Poland a step back.
Vulnerable groups’ rights are regularly violated since the ruling Party of Law and Justice (PiS) won the government power in 2015, the Norwegian Rafto Foundation claimed when it gave its human rights award to lawyer Adam Bodnar 2018. Bodnar has, among other things, shed light on hate crimes where the targets were ethnic and sexual minorities. In 2019, a Polish organization stated that about 30 politically elected congregations at the local or regional level had decided on measures in the style of proclaiming themselves LGBTQ-free zones.
- Countryaah: Offers a comprehensive list of airports in Poland, including international airports with city located, size and abbreviation, as well as the biggest airlines.
Abbreviated as POL by Abbreviationfinder, Poland has a modern constitution based on parliamentarism and power sharing (see Political system), but PiS is pushing conservative values hard. At the same time, the party faces resistance – at the ballot boxes, in the elected decision-making bodies and on the street. Example: An openly gay politician has founded a liberal party in support of free abortion and gay marriage. The party has received strong support in opinion polls and mandated the elections to the European Parliament in 2019. During the communist era, Poland was one of the countries where women from neighboring countries with stricter laws went to abortion. Numbers are strictly Poland’s abortion law and women’s organizations are demonstrating against it. There have been police raids where organizations’ documents and computers have been seized.
The Catholic Church had a heroic role in opposing the Communist dictatorship, but has been questioned after revealing that children and young people have been abused by church employees. Citizens ‘initiatives have been decisive in order to shed light on the clergy’ s abuse of power (see Calendar), but now the abuses are also addressed in courts.
Anti-Semitism is a sensitive topic. The President, on behalf of the Republic, made an apology to Jews who were forced into exile in 1968 by the Communist regime and were deprived of their citizenship. Poland has a strained relationship with its remaining Jewish residents and with Israel, which is the extent to which Poles contributed to the Nazis’ crimes during the Second World War. In recent years, the iwiętokrzyska brigade (brigade of the Holy Cross) has been celebrated right up at the government level. The brigade was formed during the war, but did not join the Polish resistance movement. Seen from elsewhere, the brigade is perceived as Nazi collaborators.
Today’s government takes a narrow stance on refugee policy both in the EU and in the UN.
The organization Transparency International placed Poland as country number 41 out of 180 in its review of corruption in the world in 2019, see list here. Corruption has been prevalent in the justice system, and cheating with EU support has been reported. The ranking on the list was a clear improvement over previous years, but at the same time debatable changes to the legal system are underway. When the government acts to take control of the judiciary, with the fight against corruption as a pretext, the political opposition, large parts of the Polish legal force and other EU countries consider that citizens risk getting “out of the ashes in the fire” (read more below and in Current policy).
Freedom of expression and media
Communist-era censorship laws and control authorities have been abolished and freedom of the press is guaranteed in the constitution. After democratization in 1989, new newspapers, magazines and publishers were started. Many had roots in earlier underground releases. The first independent newspaper, Gazeta Wyborcza (Election Magazine), was founded before the semi-free elections in 1989 (see Modern History). It is now Poland’s second largest daily newspaper and is owned by Agora, the country’s largest media group.
Until 1989, the Communist Party publisher RSW Prasa-Książka-Ruch owned four-fifths of all newspapers and magazines, most print shops, many book publishers and the entire distribution apparatus (24,000 so-called Ruch kiosks). Now the business has been privatized and cut up. Privatization created controversy when political groups competed with editorial staff and foreign media companies to buy established newspaper companies. Today, the press is dominated by foreign owners. German magazine publisher Axel Springer owns the country’s largest newspaper, the tabloid fact.
The Radio and Television Act of 1993 repealed a state monopoly on etheric media. Nowadays, the etheric media is governed by a parliamentary council appointed. Public service – both broadcasters and broadcasters – is financed with both fees and advertising. In addition, there are privately owned TV channels and a variety of advertising-financed radio stations. International satellite channels are not often subtitled in Polish.
The conservative government party PiS quickly passed a new media law that caused outrage after the 2015 power change. The law gave the finance minister the right to dismiss all senior executives in the public service companies. PiS said it wanted to transform the state etheric media and the news agency PAP into “national cultural institutions”. The law was condemned by press freedom organizations and led to Poland collapsing from place 20 in 2015 to 49 in 2016 in Reporters without Borders review of freedom of the press. The breed has continued, to place 62 out of 180 in the 2020 ranking, see list here.
Also, a law from 2016 that provides the intelligence service and the police increased powers to collect information from the Internet has been criticized. Lawyers and domestic organizations fear that source-protected information can be abused.
The use of social media is growing rapidly. The Polish Onet is well-visited along with the large international social media.
Judicial system and legal security
According to the Constitution, the judicial system must be independent of the power holders and built up in three administrative levels: district courts, appellate courts and the Supreme Court. In addition, there is a constitutional court whose task is to ensure that the country’s laws are in accordance with the constitution.
The courts have had insufficient financial resources and long processing times. After the PiS party reached governmental power in the 2015 elections, the justice system was hit by a serious crisis when the new parliament changed the constitutional court’s composition and working rules. The government also pushed to influence the composition of the judiciary, both by forcing retired judges and by taking control of new appointments. The changes are considered within the EU and the Council of Europe as an attempt by politicians to take control of the judiciary. The outside world fears that the conflict between the government and the leading lawyers will cripple the entire judiciary and weaken the rule of law. In recent years, the EU has pushed Poland not to implement several of the criticized amendments. Poland has backed down on some issues,
An indictment against a Catholic organization was set in 2018 in higher court. The Poznan court granted a young woman who was abused by a priest the equivalent of SEK 2.3 million in damages and a lifetime pension. The abuse took place when she was 13 and she got psychic but which led to suicide attempts. The priest was arrested in 2008 and sentenced to four years in prison. Only in 2017 was he forced to leave the priesthood. The damages are the highest awarded against a religious institution in Poland.
The last execution in Poland took place in the 1980s. In line with the dissolution of the communist regime, a stop was made for new executions. In the late 1990s, the death penalty was removed from the Penal Code.
Poland’s economy is coping with the crisis
Poland is the only EU country to recover from economic recession during the year, following the bankruptcy of US bank Lehman Brothers in the autumn of 2008.
Financial support from the IMF
The IMF approves a one-year credit of $ 20.6 billion to Poland to help the country cope with the international financial crisis.
Communist leader Jaruzelski is on trial
Poland’s last communist leader, General Wojciech Jaruzelski, faces trial for the martial law introduced in 1981. The trial is postponed due to Jaruzelski’s poor health.
Elections lead to a shift in power
Jarosław Kaczyński announces new elections for the Sejm. PiS loses government power to the Liberal Party Citizens’ Platform (PO), whose leader Donald Tusk becomes prime minister. LPR and Self Defense do not pass the five percent block and fall out of Parliament. Both parties dissolve shortly thereafter.