European Interest

Poland reshuffle to mend ties with Brussels

Flickr/Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland/CC BY-NC 2.0
Witold Waszczykowski, whose time in office has seen Poland embroiled in a dispute with the EU over the rule of law, was replaced.

A sweeping cabinet reshuffle in Poland has ushered in new foreign, finance, defence, interior, health and environment ministers. They were all sworn in by Polish President Andrzej Duda on January 9.

During the swearing-in ceremony in Warsaw, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said: “It is a priority for us to build a secure and strong Poland. We do not want to be a doctrinaire government, a government of extremes”.

He added: “I would like our government to be remembered as a good government for Polish families and a good government for Polish security.”

As reported by Radio Poland online, the reshuffle comes just over halfway through the conservative Law and Justice (PiS) government’s term in office.

Economist Teresa Czerwińska is the new finance minister. Former Interior Minister Mariusz Błaszczak was appointed new defence minister. The interior minister’s portfolio was taken over by PiS party stalwart Joachim Brudziński.

Witold Waszczykowski, whose time in office has seen Poland embroiled in a dispute with the EU over the rule of law, was replaced as foreign minister by political scientist and lecturer Jacek Czaputowicz.

Łukasz Szumowski replaced Konstanty Radziwiłł as health minister. Radziwiłł and a group of resident doctors had failed to arrive at an agreement amid an ongoing protest over healthcare spending, pay and conditions, reported Radio Poland.

Henryk Kowalczyk, until now a Cabinet minister heading the Government Standing Committee, took over as environment minister from Jan Szyszko, who has been locked in a row with the EU. The European Commission has claimed that cutting down trees in the ancient Białowieża forest in Poland’s northeast violated the European Union’s birds and habitats protection rules.

In other appointments on January 9, Jadwiga Emilewicz became the minister of entrepreneurship and technology, Andrzej Adamczyk was appointed minister of infrastructure, and Jerzy Kwieciński became minister for investment and development.

In related reports, The Guardian noted that the reshuffle is a bid for Poland to mend ties with the European Union. It comes as the Polish government remains under pressure from Brussels over its move to control over the country’s justice system.

In response to concerns that the rule of law was at risk in Poland, the European commission took the unprecedented step last month of initiating a process that could lead to the country being stripped of its voting rights at EU institutions. Brussels has accused Warsaw of subverting the fundamental values expected of a democratic state by allowing political interference in its courts.

The ministerial changes also come as the EU is about to embark on negotiations on a seven-year budget which will decide which member states get what out of the bloc’s coffers – with Poland currently the biggest net recipient.

Poland is the biggest beneficiary of European funds and around 60% of public investment is funded by the EU.

The commission president invited the Polish leader to dinner in Brussels to search for a compromise. Poland was given three months to rethink changes to its judicial system.

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