Friday, September 26, 2014

News from Poland

Should we care about a government reshuffle in Poland? I am afraid so, because, as I never tire of saying, their Ministers are part of our real government.

As we know, Donald Tusk is no longer the Prime Minister of Poland, having been elevated to the supremely high position of President of the Council of Ministers. Naturally, that meant a few changes in the Polish government, with Ewa Kopacz as the new Prime Minister and Radek Sikorski, who did not become the EU's Common Foreign Policy High Panjandrum, stepping down (whether by choice or otherwise) as Poland's Foreign Minister as well.

His successor is Grzegorz Schetyna, a 51-year-old former interior minister who recently headed the parliamentary commission for foreign affairs, who is expected "to be conciliatory and soft spoken, in contrast with Sikorski, known for some internationally controversial remarks", which is a roundabout way of saying that Mr Sikorski (no relation to the war-time general and leader of the Polish government in exile until his questionable death) was caught on a mike he had forgotten to check, using language that was a long way from diplomatic.

The Economist, which has a soft spot for Mr Sikorski, is not happy about the choice:
POLAND'S outgoing foreign minister, Radek Sikorski, is a polyglot foreign-policy wonk who helped lead his country to its heftiest international presence in centuries. Grzegorz Schetyna is a party insider who has evinced little interest in international relations, and who, according to his mother, learned his English from the foreign basketball players on a team he used to help run in his native Silesia. But it was Mr Schetyna who was picked to replaced Mr Sikorski as foreign minister on Friday, when Ewa Kopacz, Poland's new prime minister, presented her cabinet (pictured). At a time when Russia is threatening neighbouring Ukraine, even Mr Schetyna's mother, Danuta, says her son was reluctant to take the job.
While I find it a little odd that the Economist, formerly a heavy-weight publication, should bother to interview the new Foreign Minister's mother but, it is a little hard to work out what the new Prime Minister's thinking is.

The Economist provides a fairly rational explanation, which involves the need to balance internal party forces (as well as getting the difficult Mr Sikorski under control).
In taking over the prime minister's job, Mrs Kopacz has had to ensure Mr Schetyna and other party bosses accept her leadership. She has taken care to put other barons besides Mr Schetyna into senior posts, which allows her to act as an arbiter among party factions and to cement her position. Mr Schetyna has already pulled in his horns. He had earlier called for an internal party vote as soon as possible to determine Civic Platform's leader, but now has fallen into line, allowing the vote to be delayed until after next year's parliamentary elections.
In the meantime, Mr Sikorski is being kicked upstairs. He has been given the second most important position on the Polish political scene, though this is not particularly well known internationally: he is to be the Speaker in the Sejm (Parliament), having been accepted as such by the Sejm with 232 votes for, 143 against and 62 abstentions.

I noticed some rumours on Twitter that he is expected to make the Sejm more powerful vis-√°-vis the government, taking, as his role model, the British Parliament. Given the recent track record of that venerable institution and, particularly, of the House of Commons, Mr Sikorski will not have to work terribly hard to emulate it.

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