Thursday, July 05, 2007

Poland nursing a grudge

The EU deal that wasn't; striking doctors and nurses; and the Father Henryk Jankowski – Mel Gibson connection: the usual weird and wonderful stories out of Poland didn’t stop just because I went on holiday.

For the last two weeks now, nurses have joined doctors and come out on strike and camped themselves, literally, opposite the prime minister’s office. Just half a kilometer from where I live, a line of tents – a ‘white city’ - has emerged on the plush Ujazdowski Avenue, and lining the lush Lazinki Park.

Work to rule, even hunger strikes have been part of the protest – these people are pretty desperate. Not hard to imagine why as both sets of workers get less than the national wage for doing a job that requires a much higher than average level of skills and training.

The government has been unsympathetic (unlike the general public) to their plight and repeatedly claimed that ‘there is no more money’ – as they waste billions sending armed forces to Afghanistan and Iraq, and elsewhere besides.

The latest news appears to be an offer by health minister Zbigniew Religa for a 30 percent pay rise… next year. The nurses and doctors must be tempted to take the offer and pack up their tents.

EU agreement that wasn’t

Chancellor Merkel must have felt proud of herself when she got Poland to sign up to the new EU Treaty, an agreement which included Warsaw accepting a new method of voting that decreased its influence in Brussels. This was a surprise as the ‘square root’ method favoured by the Polish government was something that the Kaczynskis claimed was ‘worth dieing for…’.

Well, President Lech Kaczynski had to come home from the summit in Germany with his tail between his legs and very much alive.

Unfortunately, his brother, PM Jaroslaw appears to have been none too pleased by Lech’s work abroad. He suddenly announced days after the deal was signed and sealed that, in fact, Warsaw did not accept the deal. He said that it was unfair to relate the voting weight of a country to the size of its population. Why? “Because Poland’s population would have been much larger than the current 38 million if not for the Nazis (and Soviets) murder during WW II.”


This is indeed a strange argument. Should Ireland be given greater voting strength in the EU because it suffered a 25 percent decrease in its population during the Potato Famine of the 1840s?

As someone said to me at work today – to think something like that in private is understandable, but to use it as a negotiating tactic is ludicrous.

A better argument would have been to point out that WW II, and the Soviet occupation after it, severely stalled the lively development Poland experienced between the two world wars.

But even still – I don’t think even that argument would have increased Poland’s entitlement to EU structural funds.

Father Jankowski – a bit like David Beckham, actually

The Dziennik newspaper printed a story today revealing that the priest so prominent during the Solidarity strikes of 1980 has contacted Mel Gibson to direct the planned biopic of Jankowski’s life.

Funding for the new movie is no problem – some big name sponsors are ready to sign up. All the film needs is the delicate touch of Gibson, director of the film The Passion, which ultra-Catholic Jankowski obviously greatly enjoyed.

It was also revealed that Father Jankowski is releasing a new range of cosmetics – notably a perfume called HJ – and he is also, via the Jankowski Institute, opening a chain of cafes, which will be serving wine, vintage Jankowski, as every bottle has the priest’s face on it.

But what will this new perfume and wine smell and taste like?

Well some are expecting them to smell and taste of…anti-Semitism.

Jankowski has been repeatedly told off by the Vatican for his anti-Semitic statements. In 1997 the Polish Church was forced to ban him preaching for one year after these kind of remarks, reported by the Anti-Defamation League:

‘[Jankowski said]…in June 1995, with Polish President Lech Walesa in attendance, that members of the Polish government have secret allegiances to Israel or Russia, and that the Jewish Star of David was part of the Nazi swastika and the communist hammer and sickle. In December 1995, during a meeting at his Church, Father Jankowski said, "I have nothing to apologize for my [anti-Jewish] words...Why shouldn't we talk about such things as the murder of Germans by Jews? Why may we not talk about the Jewish-communist administration that governs Poland today? The reason is that they have banks, and everything else in their hands."
So will Jankowski become the new Polish David Beckham, endorsing all sorts of products, from wine to cosmetics, or is his ‘brand’ already tarnished by his ugly prejudices?