Sunday, September 30, 2007

Poland as corrupt as Cuba, claims watchdog

Poland has been classified as 61st in the annual ranking Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) by Transparency International – level with Cuba and behind such countries as Namibia and Costa Rica.

Despite the fact that Poland’s position in the ranking has improved, the country still comes off rather pale in comparison with other EU countries. Poland is not the most corrupted of all Member States only because of Romania and Bulgaria who in 2007 joined the EU.

The place in the ranking is not as important as the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) which is used to determine if the Poles feel that they live in a corrupted country. In the second year in a row the index improved slightly.

“For two years in Poland there has been a lot of coverage on corruption. People have an impression that there is a fight against corruption going on,” says Piotr Kobza from TI. Kobza pointed out, however, that “an impression” is a key term here, as this does not mean any particular activities of state authorities.

Transparency International – an organization fighting corruption worldwide - admits that Poles have a tendency to complain about bribery, especially in courts when they lose a case.

The TI ranking comprised of 180 countries. In the lead were: Denmark, Finland and New Zeeland. Somalia, Iraq and Haiti came last.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Idiot’s Guide to Polish Elections II

The Women’s Party have launched their election campaign in Poland.

The caption says: Poland is a women, and with nothing to hide.

Nice! It's got them huge amounts in the press - although not much of it has been about their politics.

The Women’s Party is one of the newest political parties in Poland, set up in January this year. It’s leader is writer Manuele Gretkowska (first on the right, front row).

Supporters include singers Kayah, Anna Maria Jopek and Maryla Rodowicz.

They are trying to position themselves beyond left or right (though conservatives would think of them as being…er…nakedly leftwing wing).

They want to concentrate on equality issues and the rights of children, etc.

They are for more sexual education in schools, and better childcare facilities, etc.

In fact, it seems like pretty standard feminism from the 1970s in Britain.

Which shows they think Poland is a little behind the times as far as gender issues are concerned.

And they would be correct.

But how well will they do in the elections on October 21? Well, it doesn’t look too good for them at the moment. They need five percent to get any seats in parliament, and none of the opinion polls I have seen gives them that – more like two percent.

A Feminist Initiative party was set up in Sweden a couple of years ago to contest the elections there last year – and they got just 0.69 percent.

So ‘identity politics’ is probably not a good road to go down if you want to do well in elections in Poland – or anywhere else for that matter.

But if they get people to debate matters like the lack of affordable collective childcare, and other obstacles to women improving their lot, then more power to them, I say.

And I am very pleased that it is the Women’s Party who decided to declare that they have ‘Nothing to hide” rather than say Law and Justice or Civic Platform.

But the danger is that if the researchers for the Women’s Party find that they have had a ‘bounce’ in the opinion polls since unveiling their election campaign poster, other politicians might just be tempted to do the same!

I mean, what if heads of state decided to get them all off for photo oppotunities at international summits?

Friday, September 28, 2007

Poland bans OSCE poll observers

Poland has said it will not allow the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe to monitor its parliamentary elections next month.
The foreign ministry in Warsaw said Poland did not need observers because it was a well-established democracy.

The OSCE, which often sends monitors to cover polls in its member states, voiced surprise at Poland's move.

However, there are no fears that the 21 October elections will be rigged, our correspondent in Warsaw says.

The early elections were called by Polish President Lech Kaczynski after the parliament voted to dissolve itself earlier in September.

The ruling conservative coalition collapsed last month amid corruption allegations against the leader of a junior partner.

'Faux pas'

"The OSCE asked Poland to admit observers for the election but Poland rejected the proposal, underlining that Poland is a democracy," Polish Foreign ministry spokesman Robert Szaniawski said.

"It's a standard procedure that it is the country that invites OSCE observers for elections, so in this case OSCE made a faux pas," he added.

A spokeswoman for the OSCE poll monitoring group described the situation as "unusual".

"A monitoring mission has nothing to do with what we think of the state of democratic practices in a country," Urdur Gunnarsdottir was quoted as saying by Reuters news agency.

Poland is one of the 56 members of the OSCE, whose election monitoring headquarters are based in Warsaw.

As well as monitoring elections in undemocratic countries, the OSCE sends teams to nations likes France and the United States, the BBC's Adam Easton in Warsaw says.

Although Polish Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski has been accused of abusing the state's power, nobody seriously believes that his government is preparing to rig the polls, our correspondent says.

He adds that the government's refusal to co-operate has been widely criticised in Poland.

Some Western diplomats also say Russia could use Warsaw's example as an excuse to prevent observers from attending its elections later this year.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Corruption charges for 34 club officials at Arka Gdynia

Corruption charges have been filed against 34 officials at Arka Gdynia, which plays in the Polish second division.

"It is Poland's first indictment against a criminal group active inside Polish soccer," Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro said Friday, adding that the charges were "well documented."

Across Poland, some 100 soccer officials and players, including two members of the national soccer federation, have faced charges in the match-fixing case that began in May 2005.

Arka Gdynia, in the Baltic city of Gdynia, was demoted in the course of the investigation, and the club's president and team coach are among the 34 facing charges.

"Through hierarchy and club rules, a criminal group introduced corruption there," Ziobro said.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Bad press for Poles in UK

Negative stories about Poles in the UK are a little like the London No 68 bus: you don’t see one for a while, then a load of them come along all at once.

The Sunday Telegraph yesterday:

More than one crime in five in London is now committed by a foreign national, raising fresh fears over the impact of immigration.

Around a third of all sex offences and a half of all frauds in the capital are carried out by non-British citizens.

Poles, who have entered Britain in record numbers since they joined the European Union in 2004, committed 2,310 crimes in the first six months of this year to become the most prolific offenders.
Included among those are 583 violent crimes and 32 sex offenses

Oh, dear

UK Police forces are complaining that the new arrivals into Britain are ‘putting a strain on resources’.

The story comes on the back of one printed in the usual suspect last week, the Daily Mail, which reported that Poles were claiming, as the headline to the story says, ‘one million pounds every month in child benefit’.

Like every good mother, Angela Trajkowski wants the best for her two children.

She buys them new clothes and puts healthy meals on the table, while keeping the family's private flat, overlooking a park in a leafy provincial town, in perfect order.

Her nine-year-old daughter, Martina, attends expensive private lessons after school and her youngest, a four-year-old boy called Alan, will soon be old enough to go to the local kindergarten in the mornings.

Dark-haired Angela, 31, works long hours as an office supervisor but she still relies heavily on child benefit from the state to make ends meet.

Every week, she puts Martina and Alan in the back of her blue Renault Clio and drives the five minutes journey to the cashpoint at her local bank. There, she draws out the 33-a-week put into her family account by the British government. It totals 1,650 each year.

Yet this young Polish mother does not live in Britain. Her home is thousands of miles away in Lubin, a town near the picturesque city of Wroclaw in south-west Poland and close to the German border.

Lubin has no historical links with Britain, while Angela speaks only a smattering of English (learned when she worked for a few months as a cleaner at the London home of singer Bob Geldof and his wife, the late Paula Yates).

Angela is just one of thousands of women across Eastern Europe who, because of the crazy system of hand-outs dispensed by Britain's generous welfare state, are entitled to child benefit.

This week, ministers admitted that more than 1million Pounds a month in child benefit is going to the families of youngsters who live in the former Soviet bloc countries.
I should point out that the headline 1m Pounds of child benefit paid out a month - to mothers in Poland’ is rather different from the concluding sentence, 1million a month in child benefit is going to the families of youngsters who live in the former Soviet bloc countries,’ – plural. But this is the Daily Mail after all, which as you can see by the style of the ‘news’ article, is not news at all, but propaganda.

An extra 2.500 sounds a lot – although as a percentage of the Polish population in London is it minute – lower than the ratio between offense and population in other ethnic groups, including indigenous British.

Still, these kind of stories will be used by those who believe that free movement of labour and people is a bad thing.

There has been a drip, drip of these stories ever since Poland joined the EU in 2003. But stories like these do tend to come in clusters. Either editors see one story and then go looking for a similar one; or, when there is a broader political context into which these stories fit.

We saw a cluster of these stories before Bulgaria and Romania joined the EU this year.

Polish immigration is again a hot topic, it could be argued, because the EU Constitutional Treaty is back on the (very boring) agenda. Many in Britain are trying to force the government to have a referendum on the subject – new PM Gordon Brown is resisting.

One of the arguments against the EU as a whole – and the EU Treaty in particular – is that it is giving away sovereignty. No doubt about that, of course. The immigration ‘problem’ – our old friend the Polish plumber – is seen as another further loss. Brits are a little shocked by the size of the 'invasion'.

I was listening to BBC Radio 5 last night and the amount of phone calls from Angry of Croydon complaining that there ‘are signs going up all over the place in Polish. Can’t even read the signs in me own country…’ etc...was rather sad.

So if, and when, the EU does comes on the news agenda in the UK, so will stories of wicked Poles in the UK eating baby foxes.

Watch more and more ‘Poles steal baby swans on child benefit’ type stories appearing in the press, as the EU treaty issue heats up in Britain.

The Polish plumber has got his monkey wrench stuck down a British gutter (press).

Monday, September 24, 2007


Mum Aneta Kryszczak can't believe her luck as she banks nearly 1,000 Pounds a year in British child benefit - while living IN POLAND.

Husband Mirek sends her the handouts he collects courtesy of UK taxpayers while working as a builder in London.

The monthly 78.43 is wealth beyond wildest dreams for Aneta - whose wages in her full-time job are just 166 a month.

Aneta, mother to seven-year-old Hubert, said: "What could I spend it on? With that money my son can have anything he wants.

"I would not need all that to look after him. Maybe at the start of the school term we could spend it on books and clothes.

"After that I would find it hard to spend it on Hubert, though he would want computer games - maybe a new PlayStation."

Amazingly, Aneta would be sent 169.20 a month - MORE than her wages - if she had three children.

But the Kryszczaks are NOT working some elaborate scam. They are among 14,000 families living abroad who collect our child benefit because of astonishing EU rules.

Ministers last week admitted that, scandalously, more than ?1million a month is handed to the families of youngsters who live in former Communist countries.

Mirek, 36, told The People: "As soon as I arrived in Britain three months ago I heard about it. I was told all I had to do was fill in a form to get almost 80 a month.

"At first I thought it was a joke but it is not."

Back home in Poland's northern region of Warminsko-Mazurskie, Aneta is just as bemused.

"When I first heard it was possible for my husband to claim these benefits I was amazed," she said. "It's still difficult for me to believe - but I am not complaining."

Aneta, 31, and Hubert live with Mirek's parents in the village of Wojciechy.

Although they could not afford their own flat, they now have luxuries such as a large-screen TV in the living room and a computer with flat-screen monitor.

When The People called, Hubert was playing computer games. A bowl on the coffee table in the comfortable living room was brimming with sweets and chocolates. There were other TVs in a bedroom and the kitchen.

Aneta said: "My husband had been thinking about going to Britain for some time. It was hard to make our living when both of us worked in Poland.

"Mirek had a small business and I worked in a bar. We could hardly make ends meet."

Despite Aneta's delight at our generosity, Brits working in Poland cannot expect the same treatment from the Government there. The country's tightly controlled, means-tested system means it would be virtually impossible for a British parent to collect Polish benefit for a child living in this country.

Even Poles have trouble collecting state aid.

Aneta explained: "We tried to get child benefits in Poland but even though our combined income was really low it didn't allow us to get extra money from the government."

Mirek's move to Britain solved that problem. He spoke to The People near Ravenscourt Park Tube station in an area of west London where Poles flock.

Mirek, who had just filled in his child benefit form, was enjoying a beer with work pals near the "Wailing Wall", which is covered in job adverts aimed at migrants.

He said: "When I found out about the possibility to legally claim benefits for my child, I decided to give it a go. Why shouldn't I get the money I am entitled to?" Child benefit, designed to help parents buy food and clothes, is 18.10 a week for the eldest child and 12.10 for each other one. It is paid whatever a family's income.

In Poland the benefit starts at 8.88 - and then it's only for the poorest parents.

Another father delighted with the British system is Jaroslaw Skowronski, whose wife Anna and son Piotr, four, still live in Poland.

Jaroslaw, 31, has been getting child benefit for two years.

He laughed: "Now we just treat is as part of our income. We are not doing anything illegal - so why wouldn't we get it?

"If you see a 20 note on the floor you will pick it up. It is the same - free money."

The People first exposed the loophole a year ago when we found out an agency was helping eastern Europeans exploit the system. We told how immigration consultant Przemyslaw Szymanski charged 75 a time to fill out forms and appeal against any refusals.

A Polish-speaking People undercover reporter found such agencies still flourish.

She contacted one called Kancelaria. One of the workers, Beata, told her there was an 80 charge to fill in the necessary forms. She said: "It is straightforward and there is almost no chance it will be rejected."

Beata said only a national insurance number and birth certificate were needed. About 220,000 Poles applied for a number last year. There are officially 750,000 Polish people living in the UK - though the true figure is put at more than a million.

Philip Hammond, shadow work and pensions secretary, said: "Child benefit is a vital weapon in the fight against child poverty. So why is Gordon Brown sending thousands of pounds every week to children who don't live here?"

Matthew Elliott, leader of pressure group the Taxpayers' Alliance, said: "The Government should put a stop to it."

A spokesman for Revenue and Customs, which deals with child benefit, said: "If you are from an EU member country and fit the qualifying criteria then you are entitled to claim."

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Poland Publishes Secret Police File Data

In its latest effort to deal with its communist past, Poland on Tuesday began publishing a list of public figures who either collaborated with or were spied on by its old secret police before 1989.

There was so great an interest in the list — an index to the vast files at the Institute of National Remembrance — that institute's Web site was difficult to access as the publication time of 8 p.m. came and went, but spokesman Andrzej Arseniuk confirmed publication had begun.

The first list was made public weeks before general elections on Oct. 21, balloting sought by Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski of the governing Law and Justice party after months of political turmoil with smaller coalition partners.

The first group of names posted on the Web site focused on public figures and included, among others, the file indexes of the prime minister and his twin brother, President Lech Kaczynski, as two people who were spied on. Also on the list were the speakers of Parliament and the Senate, but otherwise most candidates in the coming election were deliberately left off.

The institute said it was just beginning the process of publication, which could take up to six years.

It was acting on a new law calling for public figures to be screened for past collaboration. A special court this year called for the index to be published.

Polish officials decided against a wholesale purge of communists immediately after the collapse of the old regime in 1989, but the issue has not gone away. Some people have been wrongly accused or smeared for political purposes, but others say Poland has not done enough to rid itself of Communist influence.

"This is an index saying what kind of documents the institute has on various categories of public figures from the president to county officials," Andrzej Paczkowski, a member of the institute's board, told The Associated Press.

"It makes no difference in the character of their appearance: they can be targets, collaborators or secret security employees," he said.

The PAP news agency reported the entries of the prime minister and the president, indicating they were targets of the secret police — something already well-known, since the Kaczynskis in the 1980s were dissidents and advisers to the Solidarity trade union and pro-democracy movement. Lech Kaczynski was jailed after martial law was declared in 1981.

The institute said it went ahead with publication to meet the conditions of the law, despite concerns about the coming election. The prime minister has made purging former communists from public life a key goal of this government, and a court struck down provisions of the disclosure law that would have barred people such as journalists and teachers from their professions if they were found to have collaborated.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Polish gang trafficking women to Austrian brothels on trial

The trial of six men - two of them policemen - accused of trafficking women to work in Austrian brothels is just about to begin in one of Wrocław’s District Courts, southwestern Poland.

According to the public prosecutor’s office, the gang had their roles strictly defined.

There were people putting job advertisements on Internet and in some papers; then there were drivers who would drive the women do Vienna and Salzburg and granted them some accommodation there; and there was a Polish woman who owned a chain of brothels in Austria.

The gang was active for two years, because most of the women knew why they were going abroad and had worked in some Polish brothels (euphemistically called ‘escort agencies’) before.

Two women who had not realized they would be working as prostitutes, managed to escape.

The gang was exposed by the Central Bureau of Investigation.