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  • Zlotys for tots
    Subsidising babies has bolstered Poland’s ruling party—so far
    But it could prove painfully expensive in the end
    THE ECONOMIST WARSAW May 10th 2018

    POLITICIANS elsewhere kiss babies. Polish ones subsidise them. In a new report by the OECD, a club of mostly wealthy countries, Poland was the only one of its 35 members where families receive more in state handouts than they pay in tax. For a single-income Polish family on an average wage with two children, the average net personal tax rate is minus 4.8%, compared with an OECD average of 14%. While the rate has crept up in most of the countries surveyed, in Poland it has dipped by five percentage points since 2016.

    Since coming to power in 2015, the socially conservative Law and Justice party (PiS) has championed families, albeit only of the traditional heterosexual sort. Its flagship 500Plus programme offers families a monthly handout of 500 zloty ($139) per child, from the second child onwards (and from the first in poor households). Since the launch in 2016, the government has splurged a total of 42.6bn zloty to 3.7m children from 2.4m families. Recently it proposed new measures focusing on motherhood, including a bonus for having a second child within two years of the first. Meanwhile, PiS politicians have sympathised with church-backed proposals to tighten restrictions on abortion, already among the tightest in Europe.

    Poland needs children. The country has one of the lowest fertility rates in Europe, at around 1.4. (The EU average is 1.6.) Already employers are struggling to fill jobs, despite a stream of workers from neighbouring Ukraine. At a PiS convention on April 14th, Beata Szydlo, who was demoted to deputy prime minister in December, said that “our biggest challenge” was to increase the birth rate. A video clip released by the health ministry in November urges Poles literally to multiply like rabbits.

    For the time being PiS’s efforts may be working. Over 400,000 children were born in Poland in 2017, around 20,000 more than the previous year, buoyed by low unemployment and rising wages. Extreme child poverty has fallen, too. Yet the baby boom could prove short-lived. Meanwhile, PiS’s natalist push has angered some women, who resent being treated like incubators. Same-sex couples, who are not recognised by the state, feel slighted by the government’s traditional attitudes.

    There are economic risks, too. Apart from its cost, critics warn that 500Plus encourages parents to drop out of work to qualify for the subsidy for the first child. In Poland, the inactivity trap—the disincentive to return to employment after inactivity—is one of the highest in the EU, according to a simulation by the European Commission. Since 2015, it has risen sharply to double the EU average. Already there are signs that mothers are quitting paid work. According to an estimate by the Institute for Structural Research in Warsaw, some 100,000 women were absent from the labour market in the first half of 2017 because of the 500Plus benefit; the effect was strongest among low-educated women and in medium-sized towns. 500Plus has been a political boon for PiS, which continues to lead in opinion polls, ahead of the centrist opposition. But it could make Poland poorer.

    æ, !

    Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp


    • Collision course
      Poland’s government sacks a third of its Supreme Court
      A direct challenge to the rule of law, and to the EU
      THE ECONOMIST Warsaw July 5th, 2018

      JUDGES are a pampered caste of crooks, according to Poland’s governing Law and Justice party (PiS). On July 3rd its new law on the Supreme Court took effect, the culmination of a series of judicial changes pushed through by the party. The European Union has urged the government to back down, warning that it is undermining the rule of law. Poland represents a vital battle for Brussels. If the EU cannot defend its fundamental values, including the rule of law, within its own borders, other illiberal leaders will surely take note.

      The latest judicial reform lowers the retirement age from 70 to 65 for judges on the Supreme Court, which, among other responsibilities, rules on the validity of elections. As the law took effect on July 3rd, more than a third of its 72 judges were forced to step down. Some have asked the president for permission to stay on for the rest of their six-year terms, but critics fear the only judges to be granted that permission will be the pliant ones.

      The purge follows a verbal campaign against judges by PiS politicians, who have called them a “caste of superhumans” and “a state within a state” with a murky past under communism (there is some truth to the second of those charges). Mateusz Morawiecki, the prime minister, recently alleged that an “organised criminal group” is operating at a court in Krakow.

      Poles are split over PiS’s reform. According to a poll in June, some 44% say Supreme Court judges older than 65 should not be allowed to give judgments; 33% disagree. At dusk on July 3rd a crowd gathered outside the Supreme Court in Warsaw to protest against the changes. Other protests took place in over 60 towns across Poland. At the one in Lublin, a city in the country’s conservative east, a banner on the district courthouse urged Europe to protect the Supreme Court. “Without rights there is no freedom,” it read.

      Despite its long stand-off with Warsaw, the EU has failed to stop the purge. In December, citing “a clear risk of a serious breach of the rule of law” in Poland, the European Commission triggered action under Article 7 of the EU treaty, which could eventually result in the country’s voting rights being suspended. The chance of that happening is remote, however, because such a decision would require a unanimous vote by the other EU governments, and Hungary, for one, has vowed to stop it. Without the required support of four-fifths of the EU’s countries even to get to an earlier stage of condemnation, the procedure has reached an impasse. In a last-minute effort, the commission on July 2nd launched a separate infringement procedure against Poland for violating EU law with its changes to the Supreme Court. The Polish government now has a month to respond. After that, Poland could face a case before the EU Court of Justice, which can impose large fines but which cannot strip Poland of its voting rights.

      Defying the new law, most of the Supreme Court’s judges came into work on July 4th, where they were greeted by a crowd of supporters, some holding posters with “konstytucja” (constitution) printed on them. The fate of the Supreme Court’s president, Malgorzata Gersdorf, who turned 65 last November, is uncertain. The presidential palace says she is retiring; she says no, her term is guaranteed by the constitution. By opposing the reform, judges are turning the court into a circus, said Marek Suski, head of the prime minister’s cabinet, on July 2nd. As PiS pushes on with its overhaul of Poland’s institutions, it is unclear who will have the last laugh.

      æ, !

      Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp


      • Using this thread because I can't find the method of starting a new thread within this new forum website layout.
        This post concerns the Ukraine town and district of Berehove in the Carpathia region where I once stayed overnight on my way to Hungary. At the Ukraine border post I endured a meticulous search of my vehicle and personal possessions before I could proceed onward into Hungary.

        This region is now the focus of controversy between the Ukraine and Hungary governments over the issue of Hungarian passports being given to Ukrainian citizens:-


        • Originally posted by Gotno Gizmo View Post
          Using this thread because I can't find the method of starting a new thread within this new forum website layout.
          Hey Gotno,
          Do you see a + New Topic button at the top left of the page when you navigate to the Politics section?

          See whats been posted in the past day.

          Contact forum moderators here.


          • Sorry mate but I'm burning my eyeballs out but I can't see it?


            • Originally posted by Gotno Gizmo View Post
              Sorry mate but I'm burning my eyeballs out but I can't see it?
              Take a look at the attachment. I'm just hoping they didn't mess up the site.
              Attached Files

              See whats been posted in the past day.

              Contact forum moderators here.


              • Click image for larger version

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                • The wages of sin
                  The Clergy is stirring up debate about Polands Catholic church
                  Millions are flocking to see it
                  THE ECONOMIST Warsaw Oct 18th 2018

                  POWER, SEX and money run through Kler (The Clergy), a new Polish film. In mostly Catholic Poland, the movie has split people. One town even tried to ban it from its only cinema. Yet since it was released on September 28th, it has been watched by over 3m people, putting it speedily among the ten most-watched films in Poland since 1989. As the Catholic church globally grapples with sexual abuse problems, the film has sparked a discussion about the church in Poland, from its political influence to its own cases of abuse. Yet, as with #MeToo in America, change will require more than just talk.

                  Priests simply have cassocks; they are not saints, says the films director Wojciech Smarzowski. Inspired by real events, Kler follows three Catholic priests as they cavort between drinking bouts, sexual trysts and lucrative business deals. The film is underpinned by dark humour; when one of the priests lovers tells him that she is pregnant, he asks her whether she took precautions. My faith didnt allow me, she replies. The film also shows the damage caused by paedophilia. On screen, actors read the testimony of adults who were abused by priests as children, to poignant effect.

                  Bolstered by its role in the peaceful collapse of communism, the church remains powerful in Poland. Few politicians have ever dared criticise it. Since the socially conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party came to power in 2015, its role in public life has increased. Cabinet ministers take part in pilgrimages to Jasna Gora, a shrine to the Virgin Mary. Under pressure from bishops, PiS lawmakers have considered tightening the restrictions on abortion, already among the toughest in Europe. The church is one of the foundations of Polishness, says Jaroslaw Kaczynski, PiSs chairman and the countrys de facto leader.

                  Yet church-going is declining. Over 90% of Poles identify as Catholic, but only half practise religion at least once a week. The number who do not go to church at all is rising, especially among young Poles. Once brushed under the carpet, sexual-abuse scandals are gaining attention. This month a court ruled that the church should pay 1m zloty ($270,000) in damages, plus an annuity, to a woman who was abducted and repeatedly raped by a priest when she was 13. Three-quarters of Poles think the church should tackle paedophilia among priests transparently, according to a recent poll. And 51% support an inquiry into historical absues like a recent one in Germany. An online map of church paedophilia was published by a victims foundation in Poland last week.

                  Meanwhile, more Poles want clerics to be better attuned to real life. Young people, especially in the cities, complain about the churchs social conservatism and its meddling in politics. Some believers resent priests speaking to congregations like morons, as one man in Warsaw puts it, describing a nearby church. Jan Murawski, secretary of the Club of Catholic Intelligentsia, a lay organisation in Warsaw, worries that the churchs fixation on sexual ethics leaves little space for really important issues, from social exclusion to climate change. The church needs a new language to speak about new topics, he says. Change will not happen overnight.

                  æ, !

                  Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp


                  • Lech Walesa Calls For Global 'Solidarity' Movement In Response To Russia
                    RFE/RL Russia October 24, 2018 19:01 GMT

                    Nobel Peace Prize laureate Lech Walesa, co-founder of Poland's Solidarity movement and the country's first postcommunist president, says a new international "solidarity" movement is needed to propel democracy forward in Russia and respond to Moscow's aggressive foreign policies.

                    At age 75, having served from 1990 to 1995 as Poland's president, Walesa is now a retired politician and labor activist.

                    But he maintains an office in Gdansk at the European Solidarity Center, a museum dedicated to the civil resistance movement he led during the 1980s against Poland's Moscow-backed communist government.

                    As Solidarity transformed under nearly a decade of martial law into a powerful political force, it also inspired a revolutionary wave in the late 1980s that brought down communist rule across Central and Eastern Europe.

                    But Poland was the first Warsaw Pact country to break free of Soviet dominance.

                    "We need Russia," Walesa told RFE/RL on October 19 as he gazed through his office window at the shipyard where his Solidarity movement began in 1980 as an independent trade union.

                    "It is a very good country to cooperate with.... We must help Russia in a calm, peaceful, subtle way. But it needs to be well-organized," Walesa said.

                    "Solidarity is a simple philosophy," Walesa explained. "What does it say? [It says] 'If you cannot carry your burden alone, ask others to help you.' Go, create such solidarity, and [you'll manage] Russia."

                    'Inventing Enemies'

                    Walesa, a political icon for Polish democracy, says Western powers need to understand Russia as a country that "used to be a super power," but has lost that position.

                    "It is important to remember that there has been never been democracy in Russia. It has always been ruled by using the threat of an enemy to sustain unity," Walesa said.

                    "Russia even used to invent enemies to preserve its unity," he said.

                    But Walesa also said the world should recognize that Russia has gone through many positive changes since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

                    "It has gone pretty far away from what it was in the past," he said. "It's not yet the Russia we would like to see. But it's moving in the direction we would like it to go."

                    Walesa told RFE/RL that he thinks President Vladimir Putin made a "huge mistake" when Russian military forces seized and annexed Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula in 2014.

                    "In the 21st century, this is not a proper way of resolving disputes," Walesa said. "There might be attempts to use those old methods, but it will be very costly" in the end. Ultimately, he said, what matters is the price a country has to pay for such aggression.

                    "There are ways [of dealing with international issues] that are more open and democratic, and they bring about better results," Walesa said. "It is just a question of time before Putin will have to abandon his policy [on Crimea]. The sooner he realizes that, the less the costs he has to bear will be."

                    'Solidarity For Ukraine'

                    Walesa insists that both confronting and working with Russia now requires "solidarity" between states.

                    As an example, Walesa said the international community should respond to Russia's seizure and annexation of Crimea by organizing countries together in a "solidarity for Ukraine" group.

                    "You chose 10 representatives from all over the world, people who are well informed about Ukraine and Russia," he explained. "You can allocate them either through NATO or the United Nations."

                    "Let that group of 10 people prepare 10 different propositions for different countries to choose that can hurt Russia," he continued. "Something not to buy, something not to sell.... Every country has different interests, so each country could pick something from the list."

                    "It would be great to have five people within this group who have good relations with Putin," Walesa said. "Every day, one of those five people could call Putin and tell him, 'Listen, Putin, we have lost so much. How much have you lost?'"

                    "The last person who calls him should tell him, 'Let's sum up the losses and let's think again, because your own oligarchs will never forgive you,'" Walesa said.

                    But Walesa concluded that nowadays, each country is acting in its own manner for its own interests.

                    "You can't win against Russia in such a way," he said.
                    Written by Ron Synovitz, with reporting from Gdansk by Current Time TV and RFE/RL Ukrainian Service correspondent Hryhoriy Zhyhalov

                    æ, !

                    Hannia - Hania - Mighthelp