Archive for the ‘Poland’ Category

CIA Torture Prison in Poland: Ex-President, Premier Face Indictment

Friday, August 6th, 2010

PressEurop yesterday came forward with an obscure piece of news from Poland that may nonetheless soon resonate internationally. Citing an article in that day’s edition of the mainstream Polish national daily Rzeczpospolita, they noted that no less than Polish ex-President Aleksander Kwaśniewski, his ex-premier Leszek Miller, and an “ex-head of intelligence,” one Zbigniew Siemiątkowski, were facing the prospect of going before a State Tribunal on war crimes charges stemming from the secret prison they allegedly allowed the American CIA to set up in their country back when the “War on Terror” was at its height, and which might well have been the scene for prisoner torture.

Good work, that, although the PressEurop editors did somehow miss within that Rzeczpospolita piece the credit that journal was willing to give to its arch-rival Gazeta Wyborcza for actually getting the scoop, in the form of this article which appeared the day before the Rzecz report. Also, Zbigniew Siemiątkowski was not “head of intelligence” but rather Minister of the Interior; and there is another ex-Minister of the Interior who is under investigation in this connection as well, one Krzysztof Janik.

In any event, the combined reporting from Poland’s two most-respected national dailies provides a fascinating glimpse into a story with explosive potential that still is being treated as a Top Secret matter by the prosecutorial authorities involved. As the Gazeta piece reminds us, the first indication the world had that something funny was going on in Europe was the reporting in the Washington Post of early 2005 that alleged the existence of CIA-run “black site” prison facilities in European countries. The Council of Europe then took that as a cue to investigate on its own, and soon concluded that such installations were in place in Romania, Lithuania, and Poland. When questioned at the time, Polish authorities were noticeably unhelpful, eventually admitting only that yes, there was an airport in the northeastern Polish wilderness that the government had made available for CIA flights. (more…)

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“Most Tragic Station on the Polish Golgotha”

Monday, April 12th, 2010

That’s the title of the speech that Polish President Lech Kaczyński was to have delivered at the Katyn Massacre commemoration ceremony to which he and his party of almost 100 important officials were heading when their plane crashed on Saturday. That title is now heavy with irony.

The newspaper Rzeczpospolita has posted a copy of that speech here – in Polish, oczywiście. Naturally, it mentions “21,000,” the NKVD, “Stalin’s will,” the “Third Reich” and the “Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact” within the first three sentences; Kaczyński wasn’t going there to use flowery diplomatic language.

If there happens to be a demand for a translation – and no one can find it elsewhere (I’ll be sure to post the link if I do) – then I’m open through the usual media (e-mail or Twitter) to requests to do it myself and post it here.

On the other hand, with all due respect to Poland’s tragedy of last Saturday, I can assure readers that neither this weblog nor the Twitter-feed intends to become “all Kaczyński plane-crash, all the time.”

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Translated List of Victims of Polish President Air-Crash at Smolensk Airport, Russia

Saturday, April 10th, 2010

I take this from the on-line article published by the respected Polish daily (if with an unpronouncable name) Rzeczpospolita. (UPDATE: RP modified that article! It no longer contains the list of victims, for that you click here to open/download a .doc file with the list – for as long as they keep that there and unchanged, anyway.)

Please note that I will use “RP” (i.e. the Polish abbreviation) to denote the Polish Republic. The “Sejm” is the lower house of the Polish parliament (upper house = Senate).

Victims that seem to be of particular importance (in my estimation) I have put in bold. Of further note is the sheer number of dead from among Sejm deputies – imagine how many special elections need to be called now to fill those places! (more…)

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Nord Stream Pipeline: Cabinet of Knaves

Monday, April 5th, 2010

A brief review here of an important European energy project: Nord Stream. That’s the natural gas pipeline currently being built under the Baltic Sea, connecting the Russian coastal town of Vyborg (Выборг, north of St. Petersburg, on the Finnish border) with a western terminal near the East German coastal town of Greifswald. But as the Nord Stream homepage explains, “[This] is more than just a pipeline. It is a new channel for Russian natural gas exports, and a major infrastructure project which sets a new benchmark in EU-Russia cooperation.”

All true, in a way. But the crucial fact that the website is in no hurry to mention is that this pipeline will deliver Russian natural gas to Germany while by-passing the countries through which a cheaper, overland pipeline would normally go, in particular Poland. To be sure, pipelines to Europe through Poland (and the Ukraine) already exist. But Russian relations with those countries are usually rather prickly; with the completion of Nord Stream, the Russian authorities will have the option within a few years to cut them out of natural gas transmission completely – literally to leave them out in the cold, with no gas, as has already happened this past decade during a number of winter-time confrontations with Ukraine. (more…)

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Why Only Demjanjuk?

Tuesday, March 16th, 2010

Here’s something else that you may have forgotten about – the Demjanjuk trial, still ongoing in Munich, Germany. John Demjanjuk is alleged to be “Ivan the Terrible,” the brutal guard and gas-chamber operator at the Nazi death camp at Sobibor, and was finally extradited from the US to Germany last May for trial, to face a mere 27,900 counts of acting as an accessory to murder.

Fine, so they finally have him on trial in Germany. (After he had already stood trial in Israel in 1986, it must be admitted – he was found guilty, sentenced to death by hanging, but then his conviction was overturned on appeal by the Israeli Supreme Court because of new evidence that had surfaced that cast doubt on Demjanjuk’s wartime identity.) Let’s just let things proceed from there, and expeditiously: by now, the most urgent consideration is probably to actually complete the trial before the 90-year-old Demjanjuk finally dies.

Right, but among the witnesses at his new trial will presumably be one Samuel Kunz, also said to be a death-camp guard in the service of the SS during the war, but who spent most of his time at Bełżec. Wait: what is this Kunz fellow doing otherwise enjoying his retirement in perfect freedom (residing near Bonn, as it turns out, and subsisting on a civil servant’s pension)? That’s what a number of still-living death-camp escapees want to know, and it’s also the question that Gazeta Wyborcza Berlin correspondent Bartosz T. Wieliński poses in his article Why are the Germans putting on trial only Demjanjuk (topped by a charming wartime picture of Kunz and his death-camp colleagues posing at Bełżec under a double-lightning SS symbol; you should click just to check that out, Kunz is holding the mandolin). (more…)

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Valentine Spoil-Sports

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

In the run-up to Valentine Weekend, the Polish newspaper Rzeczpospolita offers a brief cross-cultural vignette: Arabia doesn’t want any Valentines. It turns out that, while it’s normally no problem to import or deal in red roses, red hearts, or any sort of “Be my Valentine” articles in Saudi Arabia, the big exception happens to be during the days immediately preceding February 14, when the religious police crack down on that stuff, inspecting shops and confiscating anything of that sort that they come upon.

Frankly, I’d venture to say that Valentine’s Day is little more of a traditional, long-standing part of Polish culture than it is for the Saudis. Rather, it’s more likely the kind of Hallmark-card-driven “holiday” that intruded into both nations the more they became exposed to the West – and although that exposure came rather more suddenly to Poland, in the wake of the anti-Communist revolution that culminated in 1989, Saudi Arabia clearly is more determinedly vigilant about counteracting it.

UPDATE: Yes, I was right about the place of Valentine’s Day in Polish culture (it’s namely a rather recent thing), as we can see from a quite interesting article on the subject by Jan Cienski on the GlobalPost website. There is also a brief Valentine’s Day piece from Rzeczpospolita, written by Ewa Łosińska (Valentines with the Saint), that mentions the importance of the actual Saint Valentine to Polish Catholic worship (i.e. what Valentine’s meant in Poland before the opening to the West with the fall of the Iron Curtain). But this is all rather meager stuff: there are relics of the Saint within the Saint Florian cathedral in Krakow as well as a statue of him in the Ethnographic Museum in that same city, and then another figure of the Saint in a village in the area, but that’s about it.

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Problems at Russian Nuclear Reactor

Sunday, January 10th, 2010

Sorry to disturb your Sunday peace: there’s an article now in Poland’s Gazeta Wyborcza titled Damage to atomic electricity plant in Russia. Here’s the lede:

One of the blocks of the Volga-Don Atomic Electric Plant in the vicinity of Rostov-on-Don was closed down after there occurred this morning a ruptured pipe in the steam generator.

The plant’s director, Aleksandr Palamarchuk, has assured the press that there has been no damage involving radioactivity, and that radiation readings are “within the norm.” It is planned to get the malfunctioning block started again in about four days’ time.

Interestingly, this plant does not seem to be of the type of old Soviet-style reactors that we’ve heard of before (e.g. Chernobyl), as it was put into operation only nine years ago, and already provides about one-seventh of the electric power consumed in southern European Russia. Nonetheless, it had a problem before, just last month in the very same sub-block, which meant that that part of the plant has been producing minimal levels of power since that time. Now it’s producing nothing, due to that “ruptured pipe” (pęnknięcie rury).

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Festival of Seventy-Year Suffering at Westerplatte

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2009

I don’t cover the Polish press here that often; nevertheless, the overriding imperative of this weblog remains finding and discussing the most interesting goings-on within the wide ambit of my language-coverage, and these days that certainly has to lead us to the Polish front.

I use “Polish front” here deliberately, because yesterday’s headline event in Europe was without a doubt the convocation of several national heads-of-state at Gdansk, Poland for ceremonies marking the seventieth anniversary of the opening of that Polish front by Nazi Germany with the ground-attack that started the Second World War. This is understandably a sensitive historical matter for the host nation, and controversy was assured from the very beginning just by the list of attendees. That featured a few names who you would think simply did not belong at such a ceremony, for various reasons. Like James Jones, US National Security Advisor: why were the Americans sending such a relatively low-ranking official and not someone at least at the level of, say, Vice President Biden? There was also Russian premier Vladimir Putin, whose presence was sure to be controversial for more profound reasons, both contemporary (Putin has for years been engaged in an effort to glorify Russia’s past, particularly its involvement in the Second World War under Josef Stalin) and historical (that involvement notably involved the Red Army’s “stab-in-the-back” invasion of Poland on 17 September 1939, arranged according to the terms of the secret protocol to the Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact negotiated only the month before).

“We can’t forget for a moment that what we have here is a great battle over memory,” preached Archbishop Henryk Muszyński of Gniezno at a Mass he held yesterday. “Preserving that memory and the entire truth about the Second World War is our obligation.” That is probably the wisest, most-reasoned remark made in connection with those ceremonies at Westerplatte, the specific spot on the coast at Gdansk where hostilities begain early in the morning of 1 September 1939, from among those cited in Rzeczpospolita’s main article covering the event, by Piotr Kubiak (After the war – the battle over memory). (more…)

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Has the Obama Administration Changed Its Mind over Central European Anti-Missile Defense?

Tuesday, September 1st, 2009

Returning to my €S post from a well-deserved summer break, and thus resuming my scrutiny of European affairs, my attention was piqued in particular by the entry on Matthew Yglesias’ weblog entitled US to Scrap Eastern European Missile Defense.

“Could this be true?” I wondered. I have certainly covered this whole Czech-and-Polish missile defense system topic here before, most notably in a post from last March entitled Poles Down the River?, and my common theme has been the Obama Administration’s steadily-waning support for going through with this deployment. Yglesias – evidently a non-Polish-speaker – can only provide as reference a link to a report from the DefenseNews site that itself cites “[l]eading Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza” as the source for its information. Here we can do somewhat better, of course, and even with five days’ delay it was relatively easy for me to use the Internet-tubes to find the on-line article in question (Poland without shield, by the newspaper’s Washington correspondent Marcin Bosacki – athough feel free to insert “the” or “a” there in the title before “shield,” as the Polish language ordinarily uses neither word explicitly). (more…)

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Central Europe Pines For More Obama-Love

Sunday, July 19th, 2009

The biggest news reverberating around Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) these days is that of an open letter recently made public, addressed to President Obama and issued in the name of 22 notable political figures from countries of that region, including many ex-presidents and even one Nobel Prize winner (Lech Wałęsa). Nobody who signed this missive currently occupies any actual governmental position, however, but that is perfectly logical in view of its polite but urgent message that any current official would have to be too diplomatic to deliver: America is neglecting NATO in general and the CEE lands in particular.

As vacation season here on the European continent starts to shift into high gear, it’s difficult for any mere man-made initiative like this (as opposed to, say, a natural catastrophe) to create much of a sensation, but the leading Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza at least considered this news so important that it issued two slightly-different articles about it (here and here) from its Washington correspondent, Marcin Bosacki, who notes that there’s never been any sort of letter like this sent since 1989. Also, that newspaper also published on-line the complete letter in its English translation, including a table at the bottom explaining who all those 22 signatories are. (more…)

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Chilly Prague Welcome Awaits for Lukashenko

Saturday, April 18th, 2009

A little while ago I covered here the alarming prospect for EU officials that, because of the fall of the current Czech government under prime minster Mirek Topolánek, that notorious Eurosceptic Václav Klaus, the Czech president, would in effect be in charge of much of the European Union’s important business for the remainder of the Czech Republic’s EU presidency (lasting until the end of June). Yesterday we got word from the Polish daily Rzeczpospolita (Klaus will not extend hand to Lukashenko) that Klaus is already putting his stamp upon the EU “Eastern Partnership” summit scheduled to take place in Prague the first week of May, where he is to host the leaders of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova, the Ukraine, and Belarus. The president of that last country, Alexander Lukashenko, may very well come to Prague for the occasion (or, indeed, he may decide not to), but if he does, President Klaus will not shake his hand nor include him in the official reception to be held at Prague Castle.

Keep in mind that this “Eastern Partnership” summit actual takes place just before Mirek Topolánek’s government heads out the door and is replaced by a government of technocrats headed by current chief of the Czech Statistical Agency, Jan Fischer. Yet even if Topolánek had any objection to this treatment of the guest from Belarus – there’s no indication either way whether he does – his extreme “lame duck” status would provide him little standing to do anything about it. Besides, no matter who is in charge of the agenda of a summit occurring in Prague, it’s at least always up to the Czech president who he invites to come dine at the Castle.

Plus, it just so happens that this is the right thing to do. Lukashenko has long been known as “Europe’s last remaining dictator” for the ruthless way he manipulates the sham elections he is called upon to stage every so often and persecutes the native political opposition. One complaint against the EU from many who are not privileged to walk the governing halls in Brussels is the way, when some international actor does something nasty which should make him persona non grata, it seems that all that it takes is a certain period of lying low and avoiding any more nasty headlines to get back into the EU’s good graces again. Here Václav Klaus is demonstrating that, despite his somewhat advanced age, there is nothing wrong with his memory or political sense on this issue.

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Poles Down the River?

Thursday, March 5th, 2009

The big news the past week on the international relations front was President Obama’s “secret letter” he had hand-delivered to Russian president Medvedev last month. In it, he supposedly suggested – or at least hinted at – a possible deal whereby the US would stop the planned deployment of an anti-missile system with the radar installations in the Czech Republic and the actual anti-missile missiles in Poland, in return for Russia’s assistance in stopping the alleged drive by Iran to develop nuclear weapons.

Even if nothing ultimately comes of it, this move certainly denotes some new thinking being applied to both Russo-American and Iranian-American relations. Then again, what about the Czechs and the Poles? As is so rightly pointed out in that NYT article (the one I link to above), in those countries “leaders invested political capital in signing missile defense cooperation treaties with the United States despite domestic opposition.” (more…)

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Your Own Bank Account at 59

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2009

There’s a quite curious article available right now on the website of Munich’s Süddeutsche Zeitung. Perhaps I’ll just give you the lede:

Finally independent from Mama: Poland’s former head of government Jarosław Kaczyński can undertake his own money-matters from now on – he has opened his first account in his own name.

That’s right, for many years previously – ever since he had money of his own that he needed to bank, one presumes – he has used his mother’s account. He continues to live with her, at age 59, and has never married – which almost goes without saying, for you don’t live with mother when you have a wife, even in Poland, when you are currently the chairman of one of the country’s main political parties and previously served not only as prime minister but as chief-of-staff to Lech Wałęsa when he was Poland’s first democratically-elected president.

(By the way, Kaczyński also has a law degree, was a prominent activist in the Solidarity trade union in the 1980s, and boasts an identical-twin brother, Lech, who is Poland’s current president. Oh, and Lech and Jarosław were child-actors way back in the day, starring in a Polish fairy-tale film in 1962.) (more…)

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The Risks One Runs In This Job

Thursday, February 12th, 2009

Darn, I was enjoying this article from the Polish daily Rzeczpospolita on the recent messy collision, 805 km up in space, of an American communications satellite with a Soviet communications satellite (the latter presumably inactive; then again, we also are all forced to presume that they were innocuous, civilian-type satellites when the truth could be different). And I was seized with this powerful EuroSavant-type urge to just blast off and tell y’all alllll about it!

But then I realized that the main source of information for the article was NASA. (Of course it would be NASA, who else? The Polish space agency? Jacek from Bialystok with the telescope set up in his backyard?) So why wouldn’t this news also be out already into the usual American channels?

I had to go check this out with Google News, and of course it was. You’d be much better off reading the NYT piece by William J. Broad, so go there – it’s alright, just go. Still, at the time I checked that NYT article was listed by Google News as appearing only “1 hour ago”!

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No Roads for the Euro Championships

Wednesday, February 4th, 2009

I know, you probably have enough on your plate as it is to worry about. And goodness knows, they now say this whole financial crisis thing is likely to drag on for a while, so that it’s highly likely that we’ll all need the 2012 European football championships – scheduled to be jointly hosted by Poland and the Ukraine – as some welcome distraction from our everyday cares and fears.

Unfortunately, there is certainly going to be a big problem there in 2012, at least with the Polish half of the tournament. (And the Poles are reckoned to be the more-sophisticated country of the pair – they’re an EU member-state, after all – and therefore a better bet to fulfill their Euro 2012 promises.) The bad news is right there in the headline in Poland’s leading daily, Gazeta Wyborcza: There will not be roads for Euro 2012. It’s in Polish in the original, of course, as is the accompanying article. But still, surely someone from UEFA speaks that language and is monitoring this sort of thing! For heaven’s sake, Gazeta Wyborcza states the following outright, in its lede:

Construction of new highways and expressways is bogging down again. There will not be routes to Euro 2012. Investment in roads won’t help to fight this crisis either, since there is simply too little of it.

It was Polish Minister of Infrastructure Cezary Grabarczyk himself who promised a year ago that Poland intended to build 700 km of new highways and to expand its network of expressways by 2,100 km. However, reporter Andrzej Kublik concludes that that was an unrealistic goal from the very beginning, even as the current effort to build those new roads (as well as to modernize existing routes) represents the biggest such Polish infrastructure program in decades. While things got off to a promising start through 2007 – in terms of meeting intermediate construction quotas – that initial pace then became too difficult to maintain thereafter, even as the quotas were set much more ambitiously starting in 2008. An added element of confusion entered the picture as the government authorities decided to contract for some of the stretches of highway with a private firm, Gdansk Transport Company, rather than rely exclusively on the State highway-building company. (I’ll spare you the full name of the latter; from its initials it’s known as the GDDKiA.) There was a couple of untimely changes in the management of that state company; and other political considerations got involved. The upshot was a series of postponements of completion dates that now threatens to deny UEFA the functioning highway-net (especially between the cities staging the matches!) that it was promised when Poland won the Euro 2012 bid along with the Ukraine.

A frank report like this from Gazeta Wyborcza is refreshing to see, but really, it needs somehow to feed through to UEFA officials. (One can also infer that extra scrutiny on their part of the extent to which the necessary infrastructure – stadiums, roads – is coming along in the Ukraine is warranted as well.) For rather than allow a hopelessly messed-up Euro 2012 tournament to be staged in the countries that agreed to do so but are not ready to ensure that it is a success, there has always existed and still exists the “pull the plug” option to simply re-assign the tournament to some other European country more ready to take over. I’m sure that Germany – to name but one candidate – is ready and able to take the task on.

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Visit By Pope to Israel Still Has (Shaky) Green Light

Monday, January 26th, 2009

The Polish daily Rzeczpospolita gave word yesterday: Israel prepares for Pope’s visit, due to occur in May.

You might ask, why wouldn’t Israel start preparing for a visit by Pope Benedict XVI if that is to come in May? Well, just to refresh your memory, just over the weekend the Pope withdrew the previous excommunications of four bishops, one of whom – a certain British-born Richard Williamson – is on record as recently as just last week as denying that millions of Jews were killed in the Nazi gas chambers.

And this is by no means the first incident tending to estrange world Jewry with the Vatican under Benedict XVI’s stewardship. For a couple of years now there has been a dispute over Pius XII, who was Pope during the Second World War. There have been indications from within the Roman Catholic Church that it would like to declare him a saint. On the other hand, his behavior during the war was at the least rather controversial, particularly when it came to his reluctance to take any steps (including mere public denunciations) in response to the reports he received, early and often, about Germany’s murderous actions towards Jews. And then, only earlier this month, the cardinal who is president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, a certain Cardinal Renato Martino, publicly termed the Gaza Strip a “big concentration camp” in the wake of the Israeli military offensive there. Now, this weblog is certainly willing to admit that Cardinal Martino’s characterization is probably accurate, but you can also see how it strikes the completely wrong tone with many partisans of Israel. And now it looks like the rabbis in Italy – the highest-profile rabbis when it comes to the Vatican – are withdrawing in protest from certain planned inter-faith celebrations.

If you are aware of this background, then it’s really somewhat surprising that the current Pope’s planned visit to Israel in the Spring is still on. Frankly, this pattern of recent events strongly suggests that there is yet more to come in this baleful syndrome of mutual alienation, so that betting on that visit to go through after all may still not be a wise thing to do. The shine might be off of it already for Benedict XVI; the highlight of John Paul II’s visit to Israel in 2000 was his visit to the famous Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial, but Rzeczpospolita reports that the Yad Vashem Institute itself issued an outraged condemnation of Williamson’s return to the Vatican fold, so that same invitation may not be forthcoming in May.

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Euro Election Reax

Wednesday, November 5th, 2008

It’s Obama! Let’s take a broad range of European editorial responses to his historic presidential victory and look at each briefly in turn – using what we could even call the Andrew Sullivan format, but with translation. (more…)

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Does Europe Find Sarah Palin Bewitching?

Saturday, September 27th, 2008

The impact of Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin’s recent interview with CBS’ Katie Couric – widely considered to have been a disaster, even within GOP ranks – seems not yet to have been felt over on this side of the Atlantic. (Or – who knows? – perhaps some of those answers she gave that were judged incoherent at the time actually do make some sense when translated into other languages.) Rather, judging from the weight of press coverage, the media over here is fascinated instead with the YouTube video recently unearthed showing her in 2005 at the church she attended, Wasilla Assembly of God, standing by the pulpit to be blessed against “witchcraft” by a visiting Kenyan pastor named Thomas Muthee – a few months before she went on to win the Alaska governorship.

Black magic will not threaten Mrs. Palin is the headline of the leading Polish daily Rzeczpospolita (no byline given) (more…)

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Russian Army Out of Control?

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2008

Why are Russian forces presently still occupying big swathes of vital Georgian territory, seemingly in defiance of the cease-fire brokered by EU president Nicolas Sarkozy and signed by both the Russian and Georgian governments? (I say “seemingly,” because I’ve read reports that, in the negotiations leading up to that cease-fire agreement, the Russian side managed to have language inserted that gave them some leeway to keep hold of some of that territory if in their judgment it was necessary for use as a buffer for their defense of South Ossetia.) One possible reason, that Gazeta Wyborcza raises today (Russian Army not completely subordinate?), is that the Red Army might not have been completely under the control of its political masters during its incursion into Georgia.

This specter of a renegade Red Army is a scary one, particularly for Poles, although the Polish daily does not claim any original research here. Rather, the article is devoted to recasting into Polish a report on this subject from yesterday’s Financial Times – to which, if you’re interested, I’ll just let you switch over here since it’s written in good Queen’s (business) English. Highlights are the way the Russian troops kept going even after the cease-fire was signed (with the military brass ticked off that their leaders in the Kremlin would not let them finish the job, i.e. destroy the Georgian army), and how they even set about establishing a police force for the occupied Georgian city of Gori – not really a military force’s task, quite apart from it’s being a clear sign of intent to stay there for a while – before that political yank-on-the-leash finally came down and they were ordered to evacuate Gori (but only to positions just outside).

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Spicy Russo-Georgian Potpourri

Monday, September 1st, 2008

“Georgia – again?” Well, yes. What else would there be? The Republican National Convention? Coming up (we think). Sarah Palin? Not today, but definitely stay tuned on that one, it could turn spectacular. Hurricane Gustav? The European viewpoint there is probably not too interesting, even if we might be somewhat honored by the choice of that quintessentially (Central) European given name for bestowal on the storm. My best sense of the EU’s official position on Gustav – gathered from that extensive trawling through the various national presses that I do for you on a continual basis – is that it’s taken to be a bad thing, definitely.

Actually, developments on the Georgia story do keep on coming, especially if you take the unpleasantness there of last month (not at all unreasonably) as a proxy for the new Eurasian balance-of-power that conflict suddenly revealed to the world. Today is when the EU heads of government are due in Paris to meet on a European response (if any) to Russia’s recent behavior. Looking ahead last Friday, the Berlin correspondent for Poland’s Gazeta Wyborcza, Bartosz T. Wielinski, put forth a mostly pessimistic outlook on what could be accomplished (What the Union can do to Russia on Monday). (more…)

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Palin by Comparison

Saturday, August 30th, 2008

John McCain has made his choice – and a surprising one it was, too, namely Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska as his vice-presidential nominee. As observers and interested parties made their way to Dayton, OH yesterday to witness her official presentation as Republican running-mate, even the most-experienced journalists were scrambling to find background material on someone who previously had been a peripheral candidate, at best, to join McCain on the ticket.

If those American journalists had that problem catching up with information on Palin, you can guess the problem was even more acute for the foreign press. Still, European coverage has risen to the challenge with an assortment of treatments of the Alaska governor’s naming – even if I nowhere saw any mention of the budding Alaska state trooper firing scandal that could bring some heavy rain on her parade later on. Anyway, let’s go check that coverage out – starting this time in Poland. (more…)

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Gay Pride Parade in Polish Eyes

Tuesday, July 29th, 2008

Coming up this very next weekend: Gay Pride Amsterdam! What’s in it for you if you’re not gay? Well, the parade of boats through the city’s canals – actually, basically the Prinsengracht – is the highlight of the whole weekend and attracts 350,000 spectators, or so the above-linked website claims, so it’s something to consider going and watching, as long as you also realize that the “entertainment” on the passing boats verges into outright nudity not infrequently and into sheer camp always. Plus, there will be gay street parties all over the place from Friday to Sunday. Amsterdam is generally a big enough party-place on a summer weekend for one to be able to find a suitable heterosexual vibe somewhere, if that is more your thing – and meanwhile just think of all the sales- and tax-revenue those hundreds of thousands of visitors are bringing to the city! (more…)

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Wave of Hagiography

Tuesday, April 5th, 2005

I’m back – perhaps in a bid for small-screen immortality? But be advised that this is going to be a day-to-day decision – or, more likely, even week-to-week.

The timing is a bit strange, since I re-emerge onto the blogging scene, eyes blinking, into the blinding light of the story dominating world news: the Pope’s death, of course. Assenting to “go with the flow” for now, in fact turning into a glutton for punishment, I immediately resort to what is sure to be “all Pope news, all the time”: the Polish press. Continuing to take things to the limit, why not head straight to the leading Polish daily (long-time EuroSavant readers – if there are any left – will know immediately whereof I speak): Gazeta Wyborcza. (more…)

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Funny Business with the Nobel Prize for Literature

Sunday, January 9th, 2005

Traipsing through the Polish press lately, I found an interesting piece of commentary in Rzeczpospolita on The Spoiling of the Nobel Prize for Literature, by Waldemar Zyszkiewicz, a member of the Polish Writers’ Association. (You can read a history of that Association – in Polish – by following the link. It looks like yes, it was your standard Communist state writer’s union during most of the post-war period, but that its members offered quite a bit of resistance – and suffered quite a few arrests – during the Solidarity/martial law period of the 1980s.) You might recall my posting of not so long ago in which I commented on the Nobel Prize for Literature, as a contrast to the Nobel Peace Prize which was my principle object of discussion. It seems I was too optimistic even in my evaluation of the Literature Prize; according to Zyszkiewicz, the rot also set in there some time ago. (more…)

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Poles in Iraq XI: Poles Out of Iraq?

Tuesday, October 5th, 2004

“He forgot Poland” George W. Bush famously complained during that first presidential debate last week. And so John Kerry apparently did. And what about Poland, and specifically its roughly 2,500 soldiers now serving in Iraq? We’re out of there by December, 2005, no matter what happens, is the essence of what Polish defense minister Jerzy Szmajdzinski announced in an interview published yesterday in the leading Polish national newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza.

A pretty definitive statement, you would think. And, by the way, a resounding scoop for Gazeta, since no other on-line Polish newspaper treated Szmajdzinkski’s remarks until today, and that mostly in reaction to the splash he had made in yesterday’s interview. But unfortunately it’s not so simple as all that: Gazeta had several pieces accompanying that interview – as do other newspapers today – basically passing on a message of “don’t listen to Szmajdzinski!” from other leading Polish politicians, to include such figures as the President and Prime Minister! The situation is muddled, then, to say the least. (more…)

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Poles in Iraq X: Road Ambush Kills Two Soldiers

Friday, August 20th, 2004

Back to serious tragedies now, inevitably having to do with Iraq. In fact, today’s reports in the Polish press about the death of two Polish soldiers echo quite a lot of a similar incident I discussed here a few days ago which killed a Dutch soldier. (more…)

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Poles Flock to the “Promised Green Island”

Tuesday, August 10th, 2004

As the May 1, 2004, date for the accession of the ten new EU member-states approached, most current EU members started to get cold feet about the Union’s “free labor mobility” aspect, which is supposed to mean that any EU citizen can go work freely in any other EU state than his own. For the Spanish or Portuguese moving to, say, Austria or Germany, that’s OK – studies show that in fact European workers are generally to little inclined to leave the home and culture they are used to to make use of this facility anyway. But then all those Czechs, Hungarians, and especially Poles? – who could even triple the value of their current wages at home by moving into their new brother EU countries, and/or who would be eligible for the much more generous social welfare programs over there if their job-search did not pan out? That was something else again; in the face of this, that “free labor mobility” would simply have to be suspended for a while, and most current EU member-states accordingly took advantage of provisions gained in accession negotiations with the ten entering states to set up various (temporary) restrictions on those nationals being able to come to their countries to gain work or social welfare benefits.

Ireland was the exception, imposing no such restrictions. And well it would not, since Ireland has continued to be the “Celtic Tiger” high-growth economy – at least relative to other pre-May, 2004, EU members – that attracted so much attention from international observers in the late 1990s. Today unemployment is still under 4% there, meaning that labor is in short supply, and foreigners are flocking to supply it – particularly foreigners from Ireland’s new fraternal EU member-states, and particularly Poles. This phenomenon is described in the article Promised Green Island by Jedrzej Bielecki in the mainstream Polish daily Rzeczpospolita. (more…)

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The Warsaw Uprising and Faltering Polish-German Rapprochement

Tuesday, August 3rd, 2004

You might not have heard about this; after all, it has nothing to do with Boston or John Kerry’s nomination, or his speech, or the Republican reaction. But other parts of the world do continue to have their own concerns. Believe it or not, in some cases these still involve the Second World War, for which 2004 contains the sixtieth anniversary of various of its events. In particular, Sunday was the sixtieth anniversary of the beginning of the Warsaw Uprising of 1944 against the Nazi occupation, and German Bundeskanzler Gerhard Schröder paid a visit to Warsaw to participate in the ceremonies. (more…)

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Poland Pays for French, German Sins

Wednesday, July 14th, 2004

On Monday there was a meeting in Warsaw of the finance ministers of the so-called “Weimar Troika,” i.e. Germany (Hans Eichel), France (Nicholas Sarkozy), and Poland (Andrzej Raczko). The result was basically bad news for Poland; as the title of an article on the meeting in Rzeczpospolita by Jedrzej Bielecki puts it, Poland Will Pay for the Difficulties of France and Germany. (more…)

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The Germans Are Coming – Back!

Wednesday, June 2nd, 2004

As everyone knows very well, Polish membership in the EU is now a full month old. So it would seem to be an idle exercise in frustration to go back and review the various crazies who were agitating against that up till the very end: the small-time farmers afraid of being displaced in the market by Western European producers who are both more efficient and more generously supported by funds from the EU’s Common Agriculture Policy; those die-hard anti-German paranoiacs who were convinced that, right after the fireworks had died down, the descendants and representatives of those who had been driven out of what were once German but are now Polish lands would be back demanding their property back.

Except that these “crazies” won’t go away, and may even be proven right! It is support from the countryside that is the main pillar behind the surging Samoobrona, or “Self-Defense,” party headed by Andrzej Lepper, which €S covered here back during our “When Good Post-Communist Regimes Go Bad” series back in April. What’s more, it seems that the old Germans from what was once Prussia, Pomerania, Silesia, etc. are getting ready to demand their land back, a tale told in this excellent, long article on-line on the Die Zeit website. (more…)

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