Sunday Vista Blogging is having technical problems. It will be broght to you as soon as possible.
Pijemy po polsku
The first-ever Warsaw Bloggers Pub Night was a great success!
We (Warsaw bloggers and non-bloggers alike) met, strategized and co-conspired. But mostly we just drank.
During the evening, it was resolved:
1. to have a Warsaw Bloggers' Pub Night as regularly as possible;
2. to name the Warsaw Bloggers' Pub Night "Pijemy Po Polsku" ("We drink in the Polish style");
3. and to set up a community blog for English-speaking Poland bloggers. If you are interested, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please also suggest a name for the blog and perhaps some topics you'd be interested in writing about. The blog will not necessarily focus on politics, but rather would be a kind of current-events, expat-in-Poland specific, human interest thing. We will probably need at least seven participants, as we would like to have at least one post per day.
The next P3 is tentatively scheduled for sometime next weekend. If you'd like to join, and one day is better for you than another, please e-mail me and I'll try and schedule the best time possible for everyone.
Na Zdowie! (Cheers!)
Warsaw Bloggers Unite!
Presenting the first in what we hope to be a long line of Warsaw Blogger Pub Nights!
Meet Gustav and the Beatroot - and whoever else decides to show up.
Tonight (Sure it's short notice. But we just decided on this and hey, you're a blogger, what else did you have planned for tonight?) at 8 pm in Tortilla Factory, Wilcza 46 at the intersection with Poznańska. Bring your drinkin' hat.
See ya there.
Laughing all the way to my independent operator
FT.com and MSNBC
France Telecom suffers in Polish market
France Telecom on Thursday cut its sales growth forecast for the year, blaming an erosion in the customer base of its Polish residential business. The partly state-owned French group’s shares fell 6.2 per cent.
In its scheduled third-quarter sales announcement, France Telecom had said it was expecting "nearly 3 per cent" pro forma sales growth in 2005. It had been targeting an increase of 3-5 per cent.
In many markets, traditional fixed-line connections have been under attack from services that allow people to make cheap telephone calls through the internet, such as Skype.
In Poland, however, France Telecom said customers had been shunning traditional fixed-line connections to rely on their mobile telephones instead.
Don't believe it! Poland is Skype's second-largest market after the US, and though mobile-use is growing in Poland, it's still only at 65-percent penetration. For more, see the WBJ (registration required).
Like-for-like sales at its Polish residential business fell 7.9 per cent in the third quarter as a consequence.
In contrast, like-for-like sales for its mobile division in Poland grew by 13.1 per cent – but this was not enough to compensate for the decline in fixed-line revenue, France Telecom said.
The French company, owner of the Orange mobile telephone brand, also said that it would reshuffle its assets in Poland. It is selling its 34 per cent stake in Centertel, Poland's second-biggest mobile telephone operator, to TPSA for 4.88bn zlotys (€1.2bn).
France Telecom will retain a controlling 47.5 per cent stake in TPSA. Michel Combes, the France Telecom executive in charge of "financial balance and value creation", said the move would simplify the structure of TPSA.
TP sucks. May it rot in hell.
Civic Platfrom (PO) has ruled out the possibility of a coalition with election winners, Law and Justice (PiS), citing irreconcilable differences on everything except cutting taxes and keeping gay people from getting married. Since there are some other important issues to deal with, such as unemployment, health care, poverty and infrastructure, they decided that they would do the honorable thing, and join the opposition.
PiS promptly elected Marek Jurek of their own party as Speaker of the Sejm, and ex-hogfarmer potato-thrower ultra-populist Andrzej Lepper of Self-defense (SO) as Vice Speaker.
This is going from bad to worse, it's literally quite scary.
Completely politics unrelated.
Say, have you seen this week's Power Rankings?
After one day of what seemed to be reconciliation, things are looking bad for the PiS/PO coalition. Jan Rokita, the leader of Civic Platform, has said that coalition talks have reached a "crisis".
"We are in a crisis which must be overcome. I am going to (prime minister- designate) Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz to talk with him," Rokita told reporters a few minutes ago. News agencies report that PO presidential candidate Donald Tusk and PiS leader Jarosław Kaczyński will also be present at the meeting.
This probably was caused by the bitter argument (Polish link) over the nomination of the next Speaker of the Sejm. PiS, who had rejected PO's earlier nomination of Bronisław Komorowski, has nominated Peasants' Party (PSL) member Józef Zych - a candidate unacceptable for PO.
It seems PiS is putting the pressure on the liberals, showing their willingness to form a government with other, more populist parties.
It also may have something to do with this however, as PO are very pro-euro.
Boo is also following that story.
Thank you, Rosa
A Detroit hero died last night. Due in no small part to her actions, which helped spark the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, the USA that I grew up in was better and more just than the one she did. All Americans owe her a debt of gratitude.
Thank you for your bravery and dignity, Rosa. And thank you for leaving the world better than you found it.
That's an eight-point spread. The pollsters have plenty of explaining to do. For more on that controversy, see the beatroot
With 90% in
With 60% in
It's a bleeding landslide.
Pollihg agencies reported that while Kaczyński's voters were very disciplined - only 2% of those who voted for him in the first round switched to Tusk in the second round - a full 6% of Tusk's first-round voters bolted for Kaczyński.
Thank you God!
According to exit polls Lech Kaczyński will be the next President of Poland.
Result (exit poll figures):
Donald Tusk: 46.48%
Sunday vista Blogging VIII
Gus for WS Palau Nacional de Montjuic - Barcelona
Gus for WS Toledo
Election results come in tonight at 8:25.
We're number one!
Poland has made it to the top of another EU list!
That's right! Poland is #1, top dog, best in the biz, head of the class, when it comes to ... corruption! Nobody in the EU can beat us, though Slovakia and Greece sure tried their darnedest.
For the second year in a row, Finland is lowest on the corruption chart. According to Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index, Finns can't even manage a lowly traffic-ticket bribe, much less the under-the-table kickbacks at which Polish politicians have grown so adroit. Even candidate countries Croatia and Turkey are less corrupt than Poland. It seems nobody in the EU can beat Poland when it comes to corruption.
However, the news isn't all good. Poland ranks only 70th out of 159 countries. There's more work to be done. Look out Chad!
Today, Andrzej Lepper - Poland's most important portly populist - endorsed Lech Kaczyński for president.
No real surprise there. Lepper voters were more likely to vote for Kaczyński anyways. Populists gotta stick together. The interesting thing is that earlier, Lepper had said that he still wasn't sure who he would endorse. Today he said that a Tusk presidency would be a "tragedy" for Poland. Did he come to this conclusion in less than a week?
Of course, we know that's not how it went. There's no doubt Lepper had favored Kaczyński all along, but was waiting to see if PO would offer him the position of Sejm Speaker in return for his endorsement. Since PO actually have a candidate who is qualified for the position - Bronisław (brone-EE-suave) Komorowski (kom-or-OV-ski) - they didn't do that.
PiS of course, despite tradition, has rejected PO's proposal. They've said they will make a counter-proposal within a few days.
Kazyński also made the announcement today that if he is elected president, he won't recommend central bank chief Leszek Balcerowicz for another term. That would be a huge mistake.
Mr Balcerowicz is a thorn in the side of politicians, since he consistantly tells the truth. He's been great for the Polish economy however, keeping rates stable through the good times, and, this year, as growth has slowed but inflation dropped, he's cut them dramatically. Rates have been cut by a total of two percentage points (200bp) to their lowest level ever of 4.5% (subscription required).
Coincidentally, Lepper today made several appearances shouting the slogan "Balcerowicz must go!"
Could they have planned this?
Rumors are flying
... that GM's deal with its unions signals the beginning of a trend for American companies cutting health-care benefits to employees. Nine percent fewer companies offer the benefit now than they did in 2000. The ones that do are paying nearly twice as much as they did five years ago.
In a global economy, [Delphi's Steve] Miller argues, American business can no longer afford labor contracts that require it to "burn the furniture" to feed ever-growing pension and health-care obligations. "What's happening at Delphi is just a small part of a huge national problem," he says. "This is our country's dilemma as we talk about Medicare and Social Security."I was just given helath-care benefits from my Polish employer this year. Maybe I'll stay.
Is your health-care plan safe?
[N]early 40 percent of American corporations plan to ask their workers to pay more in premiums next year, as health care continues to take a bite out of the bottom line.
What would you do if your company pulled your health plan out from under you? What will working blue-collar America do?
Might be a good time to have a national health-care system to fall back on, dont' you think?
Maybe not, if you believe national health care is a detriment to the market. And if you do, here's something to chew on:
Union and industry officials say U.S. automakers operate at a disadvantage to overseas rivals because of their commitments to pay for the health care and pensions of a large retired work force. By contrast, most of their rivals are based in countries with national health care, limiting carmakers' obligations to current employees
Think business wouldn't be interested in supporting a plan for national health care?
Last week [Miller] spoke to Hillary Clinton and says they agreed to work together to get Washington to reconsider health-care reform.That's right. Big Business is going to Hilary Clinton - the biggest champion for national health care in America - to talk about "health-care reform".
It can only mean one thing:
Big Business is about to get behind national health care - and the Democrats are the only ones who will give it to them.
Just wait. Companies can't afford the alternative.
Pysicians for a National Health Program - Single-Payer: Good for Business
Survey finds fewer small businesses offering health coverage
“It is low-wage workers who are being hurt the most by the steady drip, drip, drip of coverage draining out of the employer based health insurance system,” Kaiser Family Foundation President and CEO Drew E. Altman, Ph.D., said.
WBJ (Subscription required): Delphi's Polish plans won't stall
San Francisco Chronicle: In Critical Condition
But Polish operations will go untouched, according to the company's executive in Poland, Marek Adamiak. "Firms belonging to Delphi in Poland are in a good financial condition, have a competitive cost structure as well as a diverse client base," the president of Delphi Poland told Rzeczpospolita.
The part-producer's main problems lie in a whopping $11 (zł.35.6) billion in pension, health-care and other retiree liabilities to its US workforce. Lower wage and benefit costs in Poland - where labor is cheap and health care is covered by the government - mean that Delphi's Polish production has been profitable. Thus, instead of scaling back its Polish production, the company has just signed an agreement with government officials to invest a further zł.5 million in Kraków for a new R&D center which will employ some 264 highly-trained engineers.
By many measures, Canadians are healthier than Americans, with a longer lifespan and lower infant mortality, even though they spend much less on medical care. Canadians devote about 10 percent of their gross domestic product, the total of a nation's goods and services, to provide full health coverage for all citizens. American health costs account for about 14 percent of GDP, yet 45 million Americans have no health insurance and many more have limited coverage.One of the main culprits pushing up the cost of care in the United States is the expense of administering a plethora of complicated health plans. It has been estimated that any large health insurer in a midsize U.S. state spends more on administration than is spent on health administration in all Canada.
Dr. Catherine Kurosu is a gynecologist at two San Diego hospitals. A Canadian, she said the biggest differences between the two systems are that poorer Americans won't seek medical care until their problems have become serious. In addition, she said, American insurers often play games to avoid paying bills.
The article also discusses the problems of the Canadian system, which is far from perfect. But the differences in costs are surprising.
All things to all people
In keeping with their campaign of shameslessly promising anything that will get them elected, the Law and Justice Party (PiS), who is trying to overcome heavy odds to elect Warsaw mayor Lech Kaczyński president, has now promised farmers cheaper gas. How will they do this?
"The farmer will have to take the receipt for the gas, in order to present it at the tax office and get a return for part of the tax," Wojciech (VOY-chekh) Mojzesowicz (Moy-ze-SO-veetch) (Polish link), PiS member and chief of the Sejm's farming commission said over the weekend in Lublin, the capital a very rural voivodship (~province).
In a letter to Sunday to farmer's unions, Lech Kaczyński confirmed the policy. This is something new - It's a promise PiS hadn't made in its economic plan which the party's nominee for PM, Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz, presented last Monday. However, it's consistent with their policy, which is to drum up as much populist support as possible by promising as much as possible to uneducated folks in the country. Here's a list of things that PiS has already promised:
* 3 million new apartments for poor people in 8 years.
* Changing the 19%, 30% and 40% tax-bracket system to an 18% and 32% tax-bracket system, with only the richest 1 percent or so paying the 32% tax. Effectively an 18% flat-tax.
* Funding Poland's crumbling health system from the budget, rather than from the Health Fund.
* Lowering the budget deficit from zł.34 ($10.41) million last year and zł.32.5 ($10) billion budgeted by the outgoing government for next year, to zł.30 ($9.25) billion for the next four years.
All at a cost of at least:
* zł.12-14 [$3.7 - 4.3] billion in new spending
And they'll pay for all of that by:
* Unspecified cuts in administration
How can 45% of the population believe these guys?
Latest poll numbers:
Tusk: 57 %
Lech Kaczynski: 43%
Quote of the week, from PO economic adviser, (and economist for Case Advisors) Rafał Antczak:
"[PiS' proposal] is not an economic plan at all, it is more of a joke. The document contains no viable figures or solutions so I cannot even comment on them. The last time I saw this kind of a paper was in Belarus or Kazakhstan - I didn't expect PiS could produce something like that. ... The whole plan is ridiculous."
Sunday Vista Blogging VII
Tusk defends himself against charges
The front-runner in Poland's presidential race sought on Saturday to defend himself against charges that he lied about his grandfather's service in Nazi Germany's army, arguing that raising allegations about relative's past was a dirty political trick.
Pro-business lawmaker Donald Tusk told supporters at a rally in southern Poland that it was "despicable" that the months his grandfather spent in a reserve unit in the German army should become a campaign issue.
"Poland does not need rulers who would divide Poles into the good and the bad depending on the ... ideology or the past of their grandfathers," he said.
Earlier this week, Tusk dismissed a claim by an aide of his election rival, conservative Warsaw Mayor Lech Kaczynski, that Tusk's grandfather might have volunteered for the German army.
Archive documents that have surfaced since the revelations do not clarify whether Tusk's grandfather volunteered or was drafted - as were tens of thousands of men from the Pomerania region where he grew up. However, one document said he sought in November to enlist with exiled Polish forces in Britain after apparently escaping.
The revelations that Tusk's grandfather served in the German army could still evoke bitter feelings in a country that suffered greatly during World War II. The Nazis invaded Poland in 1939 and subjected the nation to a brutal occupation in which more than 6 million Poles died.
Tusk's campaign managers have suggested the revelation - coming in the last weeks of the campaign - was meant to smear the front-runner ahead of the tight vote. Tusk, who initially dismissed the claim, later said he was unaware of his grandfather's service between August and October 1944.
"For me this is a sad situation, because my lack of knowledge could make it look as though I was trying to hide something," Tusk said. "If I knew about it, I wouldn't hide it."
Asked if he should apologize, Tusk said, "If anyone should apologize it's Lech Kaczynski and his associates. ... These gentlemen should apologize above all to Poles for the dirt of this campaign."
Kaczynski said he dismissed the aide who made the initial allegation.
"I apologized to Donald Tusk for the fact that certain issues which should not be discussed were considered," he said.
Polls have shown Tusk leading Kaczynski ahead of the Oct. 23 presidential runoff vote.
In the first round of the election Oct. 9, Tusk finished narrowly in front. He took 36 percent of the vote, while Kaczynski scored 33 percent
Tusk finds a way to blow his lead
I had to blow it somehow
I knew he would find a way to do it, I just didn't know how. But this
is certainly not what I was expecting:Poland's presidential frontrunner says shocked by family's Nazi links
Polish presidential frontrunner Donald Tusk said on Friday he was shocked to learn from media reports that his grandfather served briefly in the German army during the Nazis' brutal occupation of Poland in World War Two.
When the campaign manager of his conservative rival Lech Kaczynski first alleged Nazi links earlier this week, Tusk dismissed the charges as a dirty campaign trick, insisting both his grandfathers had been prisoners in Nazi concentration camps.
His strong denial prompted an apology from Kaczynski, who
fired his campaign manager.
But on Friday two TV channels reported that documents in Berlin archives showed Tusk's grandfather, Jozef, served in an auxiliary training battalion in Germany's Wehrmacht for several months towards the end of the war before joining a Polish exile army that fought with the Allies in late 1944.
The documents did not say whether Tusk's grandfather joined the Wehrmacht voluntarily or was forced to enlist - a frequent occurrence in the northern Kashubia region during the war.
"I didn't know anything about it. I learnt it today. This is a day of a big challenge for me. I am shocked by the fate of my grandfather," Tusk told public television on Friday night.
Any hints of collaboration with Nazi Germany are highly damaging in Poland. Six million Poles are estimated to have died during the nearly six year occupation by Adolf Hitler's troops.
Tusk won the first round of presidential elections last Sunday, three points ahead of Kaczynski. The two will compete in a run-off on Oct. 23.
The latest opinion poll on Friday showed Tusk with 57 percent support, a lead of 14 points over his rival. The race has grown increasingly hostile as the final vote draws closer, with each camp accusing the other of lies and mud-slinging.
"This is a very important moment of this campaign," Tusk said. "People will stop and think whether Tusk is telling the truth. But I am telling the truth," he said.
"For all my life I was convinced that I know every detail of my family's life. Now I feel sorrow.
"It was better for my grandfather not to let a man like me know this part of truth about him because he taught me how to love Poland. And I see no reason why I should no longer be proud of parents and grandparents."
"So what?" you might ask. So he didn't know - it's not like anyone from that generation would go around bragging about getting dragged into the Wehrmacht.
Let's not forget: Tusk is an historian. The guy has written books about the history of Gdańsk.
Are you telling me he didn't look into his family's history? Was it such a difficult connection to make? All the news program "Fakty" had to do was call up the Wehrmacht archives (Polish link)
. This was not inaccessible information.
Also he is a Kashubian
, a Polish minority - are you telling me this guy wasn't interested in his own family's history enough to do some simple digging?
Indeed, he knew that both of his grandfathers had been imprisoned in concentration camps - how convenient that he didn't know one was in the Wehrmacht.
No, he knew that his grandfather (not [only?] his grandfather's brother?) was forced to join the Nazis. But the truth is boring, and probably gives Kaczyński momentum. If nobody picks up on his lie until next month - he's already in office. Instead, they found out within days, and now his credibility is crushed.
Expect Monday's polls to be hard on Donald.
In focus: The future of the American Labor Movement
Which side are you on?
Delphi's bankruptcy highlights the danger of ballooning legacy costs—namely pensions and health care—and is further bad news for its main customer, General Motors. The quicker management and the unions stop singing and start talking, the better.
It’s not the fact that America’s biggest car-parts maker has finally taken its long-trailed trip into Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings that demands attention, though it is the largest manufacturer yet to do so. Those who hoped that Delphi could somehow squeeze a deathbed concession out of its unions (mainly the United Auto Workers)—or indeed its main customer and erstwhile parent, General Motors (GM)—were disappointed but cannot have been surprised. For years, Delphi has been fighting an unequal struggle against rising raw-material costs and high inherited labour costs, including generous pension benefits and open-ended medical coverage. In that, it reflects in microcosm the problems not only of America’s traditional carmakers and metal-bashers but also of a whole swathe of heavily unionised corporations.
Delphi hopes that under court protection it will be able to re-engineer its business, ditching unproductive plants and people (in the United States but not, significantly, elsewhere) that a restrictive collective-bargaining agreement now protects. It wants GM to guarantee monthly purchases of parts worth at least $1 billion, and to persuade workers to accept $16-18 per hour in wages and benefits instead of the current $65. One goal is to emerge with a smaller but still vital business. Another is to avoid throwing up to $5 billion-worth of unfunded pension liabilities into the lap of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC), says Steve Miller, Delphi's chief executive, who landed the PBGC with $3.6 billion-worth in 2002 when he was head of Bethlehem Steel.
At the end of the day, Delphi’s move into Chapter 11 seems to have less to do with its imminent demise otherwise than it does with forcing the hand of the United Auto Workers and GM. And here the stakes get bigger, for GM itself is in dangerous territory. In the first half of this year, the carmaker lost $2.5 billion in North America, where its market share is fast vanishing. It wants to cut 25,000 workers and hack back health-care costs from an estimated $6 billion this year, and is getting nowhere with its unions. It hoped it had got rid of a large chunk of problems when it spun off Delphi in 1999 and was less responsive to its main supplier’s pleas for help than was Ford (which agreed to take over some less attractive plants from Visteon). Those problems have come right back.
Reckoning that GM will not be able to escape a) supply disruptions if Delphi plunges into open warfare with its workforce and b) some contribution, perhaps as high as $11 billion, in pensions and benefits to Delphi’s past and present employees, both Standard & Poor’s and Fitch have cut the carmaker’s bond ratings to a deeper level of junk. Interestingly, S&P did not downgrade GM’s cash-cow credit arm, General Motors Acceptance Corporation, sparking rumours that GMAC may be up for sale. But analysts at Bank of America now rate GM’s own chances of going into bankruptcy at 30%, up from 10% pre-Delphi.
GM still has cash and credit aplenty, but the uncertain outlook for the firm that once symbolised American capitalism, and for the car sector as a whole, is once again roiling markets which have plenty of other things to worry about. Shares fell in the first trading day after Delphi’s announcement, pushed partly by a gloomy announcement from another parts maker. The cost of buying insurance against default by GM increased by 10% in the credit-default swaps market. And two rating agencies said they were likely to downgrade a chunk of collateralised debt obligations—bundles of notional debt whose risks are sliced up to suit different sorts of investors—which refer to Delphi credits.
What this all comes down to is how to handle the promises made to their workers by important companies that now find them awkward—and hugely expensive—to honour. The combined unfunded liabilities of pension schemes insured with the PBGC is more than $450 billion, the organisation reckons. The pension insurance fund itself had a deficit of over $23 billion when it last looked. Congress has been considering a bill to shore up companies’ pension schemes in various sensible ways, but it is currently on holiday.
If pension schemes look bad, health-care liabilities are far worse, for they are not funded at all. Defined-benefit pension funds are anyway being consigned to the dustbin, in favour of defined-contribution schemes. Medical liabilities, on the other hand, are spiralling out of sight. GM is now reckoned to be the largest provider of health care in the private sector. How is all this to be resolved?
Delphi has thrown into harsh relief some of the basic conflicts in society today, inescapable trade-offs that we normally turn a blind eye to in the expectation that endless economic growth will somehow bail us all out.
Delphi’s Mr Miller would have us focus on one: the clash between the interests of young workers and those of their predecessors. As he put it stirringly in an interview with the Financial Times, inter-generational warfare looms “as young people increasingly resent having their wages reduced and taxed away to support social programmes for their grandparents’ income and health-care concerns”. Short of flinging the oldsters to the sharks, there is no escaping the demographic trend that has fewer workers supporting more baby-boom retirees in most of the developed world (and part of the developing world). The question is whether the burden should fall on workers in specific firms, on all workers, or on taxpayers in general.
Here’s another conflict, though Mr Miller didn’t bring it up: the one between shareholders’ and workers’ interests. Perhaps GM’s employees, and Delphi’s, do not need our sympathy: for decades they have had the luxury of secure employment and benefits that many in the workforce would kill for. Perhaps their unions were too greedy—and too unrealistic—in the deals they negotiated in happier times. Nor are shareholders in thrilling shape at the moment, with GM’s share price at $26, down from over $40 earlier this year.
But GM was making good money in the 1990s. Like many companies, it stopped contributing to its pension scheme for a while when the stockmarket boom was producing what was reckoned to be sustainable pension surpluses. And at a time when many big corporations were rewarding shareholders (and, no doubt, executives with stock options) by buying back company shares, GM was particularly famous for it. If that money had been put instead into pensions—and indeed into funding health-care obligations—the problem would be less acute now.
But it is acute, and no amount of finger-pointing will change the equally unappealing options. A debt’s a debt, but a dead company cannot pay it. Delphi must cut and run, or go under—unless the United Auto Workers will do a huge deal, losing face but saving jobs. Which side are you on, brother?
Parting is such sweet sorrow
The White House
October 12, 2005
President Welcomes Polish President Kwasniewski to the White House
The Oval Office
PRESIDENT BUSH: Thank you all for coming. I'll have a statement; Aleksander will have a statement. We'll be glad to answer two questions per side.
Welcome back. This is a happy moment, because I get to see my friend again. It's a sad moment because he is leaving office. He has done an extraordinary job. We have built a strong personal relationship, but more importantly, we have a strong strategic relationship with Poland, thanks to your leadership.
Aleksander has helped advance the cause of peace by advancing the cause of freedom. He has served as a mentor for new democracies in the neighborhood. He has proven that you can be a friend to the United States and a loyal member of the EU at the same time. We have worked hard together to improve the lots of both our peoples.
And, Mr. President, you can leave with your -- your office with your head held high, because of the fine job you have done. I am glad you came back, and it's an honor to be able to praise you to the people of your country for a job -- a fine job.
He was right the first time.
PRESIDENT KWASNIEWSKI: Thank you, sir.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Hold on, we're going to a little --
PRESIDENT KWASNIEWSKI: Yes. Thank you for --
PRESIDENT BUSH: Do want to do an interpretation?
PRESIDENT KWASNIEWSKI: Yes, I think interpretation is better.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Especially after what I just said. (Laughter.)
PRESIDENT KWASNIEWSKI: (As translated.) I want to thank you very much, Mr. President. I want to thank you very much for those nice words. It is true that this visit [culmination] of 10 years of my presidency, and 10 years of Polish-American relations between our two countries.
I started my presidency in a different world. And now I'm leaving the office when the world is different and the world now is better. We are together in NATO. We are in NATO together with other Central and Eastern European countries. We are in NATO, together with the Baltic states, and we are also together in a group, in fact, family. Together we are building peace and stability in different parts of the world. We are fighting together against terrorism. We are fulfilling our task with joy and satisfaction, and we do it effectively. And together we are bringing more peace and more democracy to the world.
Did I mention I got Poland into NATO? Yup. That happened on my watch. And we are together in NATO. And we are bringing peace and democracy. And then there's that NATO thing...
We are also creating more values with humanity. We are fighting for human rights and for the dignity of human beings.
We have been cooperating together with President Bush and we have made together very hard and very difficult and very important decisions. Today we talked about what we have done together and we have also talked about the fact that we will be continuing the policy of cooperation between the two countries, and that the new Polish government and my successor in the presidential office will continue this policy in the years to come.
I want to say that I'm very happy that we are enjoying and following the values between Polish and American cooperation, and that we are developing -- (inaudible) -- contacts. We have summed up our bilateral cooperation. There is still very much ahead of us, and here, as you can see here on the table next to President Bush, there is a document that I have presented to him, and this document is the -- (inaudible) -- of our achievements, and it is also information about our future cooperation. It's also the encouragement to cooperate in the future.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you.
We'll take a couple of questions. Deirdre.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. Why do people in this White House feel it's necessary to tell your supporters that Harriet Miers attends a very conservative Christian church? Is that your strategy to repair the divide that has developed among conservatives over her nominee?
PRESIDENT BUSH: People ask me why I picked Harriet Miers. They want to know Harriet Miers' background; they want to know as much as they possibly can before they form opinions. And part of Harriet Miers' life is her religion. Part of it has to do with the fact that she was a pioneer woman and a trailblazer in the law in Texas. I remind people that Harriet Miers is one of the -- has been rated consistently one of the top 50 women lawyers in the United States. She's eminently qualified for the job. And she has got a judicial philosophy that I appreciate; otherwise I wouldn't have named her to the bench, which is -- or nominated her to the bench -- which is that she will not legislate from the bench, but strictly interpret the Constitution.
So our outreach program has been just to explain the facts to people. But, more importantly, Harriet is going to be able to explain the facts to the people when she testifies. And people are going to see why I named her -- nominated her to the bench, and she's going to make a great Supreme Court judge.
Q Mr. President, President Bush, there is a significant change of power underway in Poland right now. Some have already said that they would ask for more from the United States in return for Polish support and continued engagement in Iraq. Are you aware of these positions and do you expect any changes in Polish-American relations, any tougher talk, maybe?
PRESIDENT BUSH: Well, we had a talk about who might succeed Aleksander, and their opinions. My advice would be for whoever succeeds the President to come and visit, and to exchange visits with foreign ministers, such as our foreign minister as well as our minister of defense, and to strategize. That's what friends do. They share concerns and share goals, and then work together to satisfy concerns and achieve goals. And I'm confident that's going to happen.
Seems like a clear indication to me that he wants the Poles to stay in Iraq. What's he prepared to give up for that? What can he afford to give up?
Speaking of which - anybody out there heard any names floated for Defense Minister? It's a position which could potentially gain more power under the next government.
Just got done strategizing
PRESIDENT KWASNIEWSKI: (As translated.) May I add a few words for the Polish media here? We have talked about this and I think that this is information important for the Polish media. Poland wants the stabilization mission in Iraq to be a success and to complete the success. We want to be a serious partner and we want to be a steadfast and loyal partner in the coalition. Our troops are in Iraq and they will stay in Iraq until the end of January, and the decision has been made and nothing changes here. But we have to think about the future and we have to respect the right of the new government and the right of the new president to make their decisions about it.
It was the right suggestion of President George W. Bush, and the decision will be forwarded by me to our authorities and people in power when I come back, that after the new government is established, the new power's defense minister and the foreign minister should come here to Washington to talk about the future, because the future goes far beyond January next year. And we have to talk about what we shall do together to continue this cause.
THE PRESIDENT: Caren.
Q Thank you. The Syrian Interior Minister committed suicide. What are the consequences for Syria if they are implicated in the murder of the former Lebanese Prime Minister?
THE PRESIDENT: I don't want to prejudge the report that's coming out, the Mehlis report. I think it's very important for Syria to understand that the free world respects Lebanese democracy and expects Syria to honor that democracy. It's one thing to have been asked to remove troops and all intelligence services. Now the world wants for -- expects Syria to honor the democracy in the country of Lebanon.
Secondly, we expect Syria to do everything in her power to shut down the trans-shipment of suiciders and killers into Iraq. We expect Syria to be a good neighbor to Iraq. We expect Syria not to agitate killers in the Palestinian Territories. We're making good progress toward peace in the Holy Land, but one of the areas of concern is that foreign countries, such as Syria, might try to disrupt the peace process through encouraging terrorist activities.
So we have a lot of expectations for Syria beyond just the Mehlis report. But let's see how the Mehlis report -- what it says. In the meantime, we'll continue to work with friends and allies to send a clear message to the Assad government there are expectations involved for countries that want to be accepted in the international community.
Q It's a question for President Bush. Mr. President, we thought that your last summit between America and Russian leaders, American diplomacy was stepping up the pressure on Moscow in reference to causes of democratic reforms in that country and the situation in Chechnya. And right now we have a long list of problems between Poland and Russia. So what's your point of view and what would be your advice for a new Polish government how we should handle that situation?
THE PRESIDENT: We've got -- I've got good relations with President Putin; America has got a working relationship with Russia. And always, as a part of our discussions with Russia is my personal -- when I have personal discussions with him, I remind him of my deep faith in democracy, and the people that interrelate with Russia from my government remind their Russian counterparts about democracy and its importance.
The reason I believe in democracy so strongly is because I believe in freedom, and democracy is a manifestation of free societies. I believe there's a desire for everybody to be free. I also know that free societies are peaceful societies. One of the goals of this administration is to promote peace, and the more democracy and the more freedom there is, the more likely it is the world will be peaceful.
So we've got a consistent message to Russia, and that is that one should not fear democracy, one should embrace democracy. Now, having said that, I recognize that Russian democracy will be different from the United States. We don't expect every country to look like us; we just expect people to embrace some universal truths -- the right of people to worship freely, the right of women to be able to equally participate in society -- which is the case in Russia, of course -- the rule of law, the respect for private property. These are fundamental, basic principles that we believe should be inherent in all societies. People need to make those choices themselves, but one of the roles of the United States is to remind people about how beneficial a democratic society can be to its people. And so we're consistent in our message.
Thank you all very much.
PRESIDENT KWASNIEWSKI: Thank you. You see, this is the difference between the President in power -- you have many questions, and the President will finish -- "no questions, thank you."
Latest presidential poll numbers
Tusk with a strong lead
TNS OBOP had it:
Kwaśniewski has announced his support for Tusk, as have the Democrats.
Bets as to how Tusk is going to manage to blow his lead?
He's still got over a week.
Dirtier and dirtier
Polish presidential race gets personal
Poland's presidential candidate Lech Kaczyński
sacked his campaign manager on Tuesday for saying the family of rival Donald Tusk
had ties to Nazi Germany's army during World War Two. (Polish links)
After a day of controversy and amid signs the campaign was turning nasty, Kaczyński stepped in and sacked Jacek Kurski, the campaign manager who had made the allegations.
In a presidential debate later on Tuesday, Kaczyński said: "Today I must apologise to Donald Tusk for the elements of black PR in the campaign."
Kurski will face an intra-party disciplinary hearing for the accusations.
Kaczyński, a conservative, trailed free-market enthusiast Tusk by a bit in the first round of voting last Sunday and the two will face off in a run-off on October 23.
Any hint of collaboration with Nazi Germany is damaging in Poland, which was occupied by Hitler's troops and lost millions of citizens during the war.
Kurski had told a newspaper that Tusk should clarify his grandfather's past and that "serious sources" had said he had volunteered to join the German Wehrmacht.
Tusk rejected the accusation, telling a campaign rally: "My rival and his associates have dealt a blow which was meant to hurt the most -- they attacked the good name of my close relatives, who are no longer with us."
Tusk's spokesman distributed documents showing that both of Tusk's grandfathers were imprisoned in Nazi concentration camps after the war broke out.
"This is a disgusting lie. Lech Kaczyński's campaign has descended into the gutter," Tusk spokesman Jacek Protasiewicz said.
Two opinion polls on Tuesday showed Tusk with a lead of around 10 points. The race has grown increasingly hostile as the final vote draws closer, with both camps accusing their rivals of lies and mud-slinging.
More and more like a mature democracy every day.
Trackback has been enabled, though Blogger informs that there may be a "slight delay" in registering links.
Also, finally, finally, it is possible to comment (and read the comments) from the post page, and not only from the home or "index" page. Those of you with RSS will probably appreciate that.
Record low turnout provokes reactions from Walesa and from Kwasniewski
The turnout on the Sunday Presidential election was higher than during the Parliamentary elections two weeks ago, but it was nevertheless the lowest in history. According to pollster TNS OBOP, the national turnout was 49.6%, but peaked in the Mazowiecki region at 56%. "We should carefully analyze the reasons for such a low frequency. It surely was not the outcome of the lack of the campaigns," commented outgoing president Aleksander Kwasniewski. He stated that he is still considering which candidate to choose in the second round. Lech Walesa did not conceal his anger on hearing about the low attendance. "When I fought for democracy I thought people would make use of it, but now I begin to wonder. We should have retained the Soviets, the communist system, the Militia, clubs - maybe it all lasted too short and now we see the result," he said.
If you wanted to know what your new government will look like, you'll just have to wait
Polish center-right parties in talks to form a government said on Sunday they will not make final decisions on their coalition before a presidential election run-off on October 23 which pits their leaders against each other.
Pro-business moderate Donald Tusk came first in Sunday's election ahead of conservative Lech Kaczynski but failed to gain the 50 percent of votes needed to avoid a second round of voting in two weeks.
In the September 25 general election, it was the conservative Law and Justice that narrowly beat Tusk's Civic Platform, with ensuing cabinet-building talks quickly engulfed by the presidential race.
"I will present the make-up of the new government on October 24 at the earliest," Law and Justice's candidate for prime minister, Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz, told reporters.
He added that he could present some of his government's strategic goals and a road-map for talks as early as Monday.
Jan Rokita, Civic Platform's choice for deputy prime minister, said that in his view talks over the new government's policy would prove crucial, not the tone of the campaign.
"Over the next two weeks Poland will not have a government. Negotiations will not be completed during this election campaign," Rokita told reporters.
"The fate of this cabinet depends on how far these parties will go to reach a compromise -- I am more worried about differences in programs than about the presidential campaign."
Law and Justice is more skeptical about economic reforms and seeks to protect the welfare state, while the Civic Platform seeks to radically cut taxes to revitalize the economy.
With 90% in
And we're on to the second round!
Turnout looking low
Officials are reporting that so far only 41% of Poles have voted in the Presidential election.
Sunday Vista Blogging VI
Gus for WS Port Vell - Barcelona
Gus for WS Palau Nacional de Montjuic - Barcelona
Latest presidential poll numbers
| || |
Donald Tusk (PO)
Lech Kaczynski (PiS)
Andrzej Lepper (SRP)
Marek Borowski (SDP)
Jaroslaw Kalinowski (PSL)
Henryka Bochniarz (PD)
Donald Tusk (PO) 53% - 47% Lech Kaczynski (PiS)
Source: TNS OBOP
Methodology: Interviews to 947 Polish adults, conducted from Sept. 29 to Oct. 3, 2005. No margin of error was provided.
African migrants 'left in desert'
An aid agency says it has found more than 500 migrants abandoned in the Moroccan desert after being expelled from Spain's North African enclaves.
The migrants said they had entered or tried to enter Ceuta and Melilla but were forced back, loaded onto trucks and driven to the Algerian border.
The discovery by the Spanish branch of Medecins Sans Frontieres follows migrant bids to storm border fences.
Six died on Thursday, some apparently shot while trying to enter Melilla.
A group of 70 migrants were expelled from Melilla on Friday, in the first set of official expulsions expected under a revived 1992 accord between Spain and Morocco.
It allows illegal entrants to be sent back to Morocco, even if they are of different nationalities.
Until now, migrants who successfully entered the enclaves have been housed in holding centres or sent to mainland Spain to await expulsion to their country of origin, often resulting in their release.
But an MSF spokeswoman said that while some of the 500 found in the desert had been detained before they managed to cross the Ceuta and Melilla fences, others had been illegally expelled by Spanish police.
MSF said the sub-Saharan migrants had been "abandoned to their fate" near El Aouina-Souatar, hundreds of kilometres south of the enclaves. The group included pregnant women and children.
The agency said staff had treated more than 50 of them for injuries suffered as a result of crossing the barbed-wire fences.
But the MSF statement claimed some of the injuries were also the result of violence inflicted by the Spanish and Moroccan police as "some showed bruises from being hit by rubber bullets".
Javier Gabaldon, co-ordinator in Morocco, denounced the "expulsion and later abandonment of these immigrants to a zone without access to food and water and without the possibility of receiving medical or humanitarian aid".
MSF said "the sending back of immigrants as agreed by Spain and Morocco to a country which does not have minimal capacity to receive them violates Article Three of the (UN) Convention against Torture".
Other aid organisations said they had evidence of similar incidents in recent weeks.
The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) has also raised concerns and called for joint action to tackle the crisis.
The European Union and Spain are both sending missions to Morocco to tackle the issue of illegal immigration.
Latest Presidential poll numbers
Angus Reid -
What candidate would you support in the presidential election?
| || |
Donald Tusk (PO)
Lech Kaczynski (PiS)
Andrzej Lepper (SRP)
Marek Borowski (SDP)
Jaroslaw Kalinowski (PSL)
Donald Tusk (PO) 58% - 42% Lech Kaczynski (PiS)
Methodology: Interviews to 1,000 Polish adults, conducted from Oct. 1 to Oct. 3, 2005. Margin of error is 3.2 per cent.
Latest Presidential poll numbers
Reuters - Following are the latest opinion polls ahead of Polish presidential elections on Oct. 9. The survey by pollster PGB was carried out on a sample of 1,100 Poles on Oct. 4-5. PGB's surveys tend to show a smaller gap between frontrunner Donald Tusk and his main rival, conservative Lech Kaczynski, and more support for other contenders than opinion polls by other institutes.
If no candidate wins more than half of the votes a run-off between the top two candidates will be held on Oct. 23.
TUSK (PO) : 32%
KACZYNSKI (PiS) : 31%
LEPPER (SO): 13%
BOROWSKI (SDPL): 13%
PiS bigotry already rears its ugly head
Poland's PM to be saysAFP
homosexuality is a threat to liberty
Poland's likely next prime minister, Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz, has described homosexuality as "unnatural" and believes the state should stop gays "infecting" others with their behaviour, according to an interview.
"The spread of homosexuality is a threat to the liberty of other citizens, Marcinkiewicz, 46, named by the conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party to lead the next government, told the Polish edition of Newsweek.
"If a person tries to contaminate others with his homosexuality, the state should intervene against such an attack on liberty," he added.
"Homosexuality is not natural. What is natural is the family. The state must protect the family," said Marcinkiewicz, a devout Roman Catholic and father of four.
The PiS party won the most seats in legislative polls held on September 25 and has been in talks with second-placed Civic Platform on forming a coalition government.
In June, when he was mayor of Warsaw, PiS party leader and presidential candidate Lech Kaczynski banned a gay parade in the capital.
Bochniarz gets behind Tusk
Today Henryka Bochniarz, the Democratic party's candidate for President of Poland, but who has no realistic chance of winning the election, gave her tacit support to Platforma Obywatelska's (Civic Platform) Donald Tusk, the current leader in the polls. She said that if she didn't make it through to the second round of voting, then she would support Tusk's bid.
"From what I can see, Donald Tusk is the person who gives a better chance for economic development than Lech Kaczyński," she said.
Latest presidential poll numbers
Results of presidential elections difficult to predict
The outcome of the elections is still unknown as the difference between two leading candidates Donald Tusk from the Civic Platform and Lech Kaczynski from Law and Justice has shrunk to mere 4% since the election Sunday. According to polls published today by Gazeta Wyborcza Tusk should get 37% of votes while Kaczynski may count on 33% of votes. In the second round the difference is also 4% with Tusk emerging as the winner.
Latest Presidential poll numbers
Kaczyński closes in
| || |
Donald Tusk (PO)
Lech Kaczynski (PiS)
Andrzej Lepper (SRP)
Marek Borowski (SDP)
Jaroslaw Kalinowski (PSL)
Maciej Giertych (LPR)
Henryka Bochniarz (PD)
Deal reached on EU-Turkey talks
The Turkish government has accepted the terms set by the European Union for membership negotiations to begin.
Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul said Ankara had reached agreement on a draft deal, and was flying to Luxembourg for the start of the talks.
The move follows more than 24 hours of fraught discussions among EU nations.
Members agreed on the terms of entry talks, after Austria withdrew a demand that Turkey should be offered an option short of full membership.
Turkey had flatly rejected such an option.
Mr Gul told reporters at Ankara airport that an "historic point has been reached today", adding that Turkey "has embarked on a new era".
"The text sets out very clearly the prospect of full membership. There is no alternative option (mentioned)," he went on.
Meanwhile, in Luxembourg, UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, who led what he called "a pretty gruelling 30 hours of negotiations", called it a "truly historic day for Europe and the whole of the international community".
He warned it would be a "long road ahead", with negotiations expected to take about 10 years, but added, "I have no doubt that if bringing Turkey in is the prize, it is worth fighting."
Mr Straw said he hoped Mr Gul would arrive in time to open the talks formally before midnight (2200 GMT).
Before the late breakthrough, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan had insisted he would not compromise on his stance, "which is appropriate to Turkey's national interests and political principles".
Is Donald Tusk a flip-flopper?
PiS presidential candidate Lech Kaczyński has accused PO hopeful Donald Tusk of flip-flopping, after he said that it would be dangerous for one party to hold both the Prime Ministership and the Presidency.
"I have a question for the Polish people" Tusk said today. "Will one party rule Poland?... I think that's dangerous for Poland." (Polish link)
Later, at a party gathering, Lech Kaczyński accused Tusk of flip flopping, saying that prior to last month's parliamentary elections, Tusk had suggested that Poland would be strongest under one party - his own.
"Mr. Tusk very quickly changes his mind," he said.
Latest Presidential poll numbers
Tusk (PO): 40%
Kaczyński (PiS): 33.6%
Lepper (SO): 11.7%
Will we get a flat tax after all?
Possible agreement on tax reached by new coalition
One of the major differences between the victorious Law and Justice and the runner-up Civic Platform in the parliamentary elections has been the issue of taxes. Now the two parties seem to be closer to reaching a compromise on the matter.
During the election campaign the Civic Platform had been under sharp attack from Law and Justice for its proposition of a 15% flat tax system to replace the present three-threshold scheme ranging from 19 to 40 %.
Many political analysts have even attributed the latter's ballot results to this success discrediting the idea in the eyes of the low earning electorate. However, it comes from the general outlines presented by the Law and Justice prime minister designate Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz that their position on the personal tax policy might be leaning towards the Civic Platform concept.
Law and Justice proposes progressive 18 and 32% rates, but bearing in mind the second rate will encompass only some 100 thousand taxpayers from the highest income groups, this places well over 23 million (or 99.5% of bread earners) in the first, 18% bracket. Isn't this actually a camouflaged flat tax system, something the Civic Platform had advocated all along? Mateusz Walewski, an expert from the Center of Socio-Economic Analyses, says it might appear that way at first glance, but there are differences.
The two proposals vary mainly from the administrative perspective, the economic aspect being quite similar in both. However, Richard Mbewe from the Warsaw Investment Group points to one Law and Justice tax innovation, which may backfire on the budget - considerable reductions for large families.
Still, can we consider the narrowing of differences on one of the major bones of contention between Law and Justice and the Civic Platform a signal for increased chances for a coalition cabinet of Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz? Political commentator Andrzej Krajewski says the yet unresolved presidential race might prove an obstacle to the otherwise positive tendencies.
Speculations can be heard that should Lech Kaczynski fail to win the presidency, his brother Jaroslaw, who is the Law and Justice leader, might want to switch him for Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz as government head. And this is something, which seriously worries the Civic Platform.
Legal analyses show that Russian-German gas pipeline may be illegal
Even though there is still a chance for halting the construction of the gas pipeline between Russia and Germany through the Baltic Sea, the Polish government has not undertaken any legal action to block the construction. According to analysts, in order to block the investment the new government should first of all call into question the agreement signed between the two countries. Legal analyses have revealed that the document violates certain free trade principles. Robert Amsterdam from the Amsterdam & Peroff law office claims that Poland could prove that the choice of the pipeline's route was the result of political premises, and not economic reasons. The leaders of the two new coalition parties claim that the Baltic gas pipeline would pose a serious threat to the country's natural resource security.
Lech, Donald, what do you plan to do about Poland's deadly roads?
The death toll is now 13
WARSAW, Poland Sep 30, 2005 — A bus carrying high school students on a pilgrimage to Poland's most sacred Roman Catholic shrine collided with a truck and burst into flames on Friday, killing at least 11 people, authorities said.
The bus was carrying 12th grade students from the northeastern city of Bialystok to Czestochowa in southern Poland, the home of the renowned Jasna Gora shrine, said Zlotka Korzeniewska, the school principal, in a telephone interview.
About 60 people were on board when the bus hit a truck from Warsaw head-on, 20 miles into their trip, said Jacek Dobrzynski, a spokesman for Bialystok police. The force of the impact spun the bus around and caused it to catch fire, Dobrzynski said.
It was not immediately clear how many of those killed were teenagers, but Korzeniewska said most of the people on the bus were students. In addition to the 11 killed, Dobrzynski said more than 20 passengers were hospitalized.
WARSAW, Poland (CNN) -- World and Olympic swimming champion Otylia Jedrzejczak of Poland has been seriously injured in a car crash in which her younger brother was killed, the Polish PAP newsagency has reported.
The 200-meter butterfly champion, who also holds the world record over the distance, was taken to Vojvod hospital in Plock in central Poland.
She was initially said to be in a critical condition, but doctors at the hospital later announced her injuries were not life-threatening.
"Otylia is conscious and can speak," a hospital spokesman said, adding the swimmer was under shock.
She was undergoing neurological and orthopaedic examinations, he said.
The 21-year-old would have to remain hospitalized for a number of days but she would "most certainly" be able to continue with active sports, he said.
The cause of the accident was not immediately known. Witnesses reported that her car went out of control, crossing the road before crashing into a tree.
She won gold in the 200m butterfly at the 2004 Athens Olympics and also won silver in the 100m butterfly and the 400m freestyle races.
She defended her 200m-butterfly world championship title in Montreal in July this year, and holds the world record with 2:05.61 minutes in this discipline.
Sunday Vista Blogging V
EK for WS Gibraltar
EK for WS Plaza de Espana