Geopolitics

The Train Wreck That Is Poland Right Now

Everything is collapsing: The zloty is sinking, a virus is spreading, diplomacy has disappeared, and so has the rule of law. And the government claims everything is going just fine.

-OpEd-

WARSAW — Everywhere we look, there is a disaster.

The zloty is sinking because of inflation, which we owe to the head of Poland's central bank Adam Glapinski, a political ally of ruling PiS party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski since the early 1990s when the pair demonstrated against then President Lech Wałęsa and joined in burning his effigy.

At the same time, we also have a COVID-19 catastrophe. As we've witnessed, 25,000 daily cases and hundreds of deaths are not enough for the government to introduce any kind of restrictions. The Prime Minister is afraid of demonstrations that could lead to deaths from COVID-19, while tens of thousands of people recently attended the National Stadium without masks and nobody checked whether anyone was vaccinated.

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Belarus To The Mediterranean, Europe's "Rival" Migrant Crises

Italy has long been the European Union's border-of-choice for would-be migrants, arriving from North Africa to the shores of Sicily. But while the Italian government was hoping for much needed help from the European Union to face the immigration flow, the border dispute between Belarus and Poland has exploded, and diverted attention east and north.

ROME — The tragic images arriving from the Polish-Belarusian border have diverted attention from no less dramatic images elsewhere: starting with the boats landing in Sicily crammed with men showing the injuries from the torture suffered in Libya and women and children who have risked everything to cross the Mediterranean.

The Italian government is isolated as it calls for Europeans to look again toward the Mediterranean and Africa, when the focus right now of most European capitals and European Union institutions is facing eastward.

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A Wall At The Poland-Belarus Border? Europe Must Make Hard Choices

Hundreds of migrants arrive in Germany every day from Poland, which makes the Belarus border a national issue for Germany. It's long past time that Europe acknowledge that tough measures are needed — maybe even walls...

-OpEd-

BERLIN — In May I spent a night by the border fence in Ceuta, the Spanish autonomous city on the north coast of Africa. I watched as every few seconds someone swam across the border into European Union territory. Spain's Guardia Civil seized people, dragged them along the ground, opened the gate in the border fence and shoved them back into Moroccan territory. In the space of a few hours, thousands of people came across an apparently endless stream. Then the army turned up.

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Clashes On Polish-Belarus Border, South Africa’s de Klerk Dies, 600 In Space

👋 سلام*

Welcome to Thursday, where overnight clashes are reported at Poland's border with Belarus, South Africa's last white president died and history links Yuri Gagarin and Elon Musk. We also look at how COVID may be the tipping point to push cities into a bicycle-centric future.

[*Salam - Arabic]

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In The News
Jane Herbelin, Hannah Steinkopf-Frank, Bertrand Hauger and Laure Gautherin

COP26 Draft, Poland Blames Putin, Vintage Apple Auctioned

👋 Moien!*

Welcome to Wednesday, where COP26 draft calls for higher pledges by 2022, Poland accuses Russia of orchestrating the migrant crisis at the Belarus border, and a vintage Apple computer sells for a whopping $400,000. Meanwhile, Germany daily Die Welt argues that China will be the geopolitical winner in the battle over climate change.

[*Luxembourgish]

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Society
Hannah Steinkopf-Frank

Roe v. Wade And Beyond: The Battle For Abortion Rights Around The World

As many look to an imminent threat to abortion rights in the U.S., there are changes afoot around the world, from strict new bans and more subtle means for limiting access to surprising progress elsewhere for women's right to choose.

PARIS — While Roe v. Wade cemented abortion access in the United States almost 50 years ago, the pro-life fight to overturn the landmark legislation has long kept the United States in the global spotlight in the debate over reproductive healthcare.

A recent Texas law banning the procedure once cardiac activity is detected (about six weeks into pregnancy) has resulted in an 80% reduction in abortions in the country's second-largest state. Now, as the Supreme Court prepares to hear arguments on November 1 to determine whether the federal government has the right to sue over the law, it's an opportune moment to also look at the status of legal abortions around the world.

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In The News
Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

Taiwan Tower Blaze, Norway Bow-And-Arrow Attack, Walruses From Space

👋 Bună ziua!*

Welcome to Thursday, where a blaze at a Taiwan tower kills at least 46, a suspect is in custody in the deadly Norway bow-and-arrow attack and scientists try to count walruses from space. We also take a look at what unites and opposes Russia's Vladimir and Ukraine's Volodymir.

[*Romanian]

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Ideas
Marek Beylin

Polexit Is Path To Dictatorship, A Cry To Keep Poland Free

EU membership is not in line with Poland's values, say the current ruling party. Will that mean Poland's Exit (Polexit) from the European Union? Everything is riding on where the long-serving conservative government of PiS leader Jarosław Kaczyński will do as they run counter to popular opinion on the EU question.

-OpEd-

WARSAW — They left it to Julia Przyłębska, President of Poland's Constitutional Tribunal, to state where the ruling Law and Justice party (PiS) stands: the country should no longer be in the European Union since EU values are contrary to the party's rule.

This was the decision reached by this pseudo-Constitutional Tribunal last week, while nearly 90% of the public wants to remain in the EU — according to a recent Ipsos poll for Gazeta Wyborcza and OKO.press. It means that on this fundamental issue in Poland, the PiS is looking to bypass the absolute majority of Poles.

According to the same Ipsos poll, more than half of us fear that the PiS is preparing a Polexit for us. After the decision of the pseudo-CT, this fear is likely to grow.

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Taiwan
Genevieve Mansfield

Popular Taiwanese Cactus Toy Raps In Polish About Cocaine

If not for a Polish shopper, it might have remained lost in translation for all the Taiwanese parents who've bought their kids the popular toy cactus that raps in some exotic language.

But a Polish mother living in the city of Taichung was doing some grocery shopping with her baby at the local Carrefour when she heard something that made her ears perk up: a foul-mouthed Polish rap song referencing cocaine and suicide. It turned out that the source of the obscene music was the singing cactus.

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GAZETA WYBORCZA
Anna Mierzyńska

Poland, A Case Study In Modern Political Tribalism

Poles are divided into hostile tribes. Radicalization is on the rise, and institutions do little to support those trying to tame it.

-Analysis-

WARSAW — If you're not with us, you're against us. The enemy must be destroyed. He has no rights or dignity. This way of thinking is, unfortunately, becoming more and more popular in Poland. It justifies hate speech and violence. And even though we know that polarization and radicalization is a growing problem, almost no one is working to slow down the process. Those who are trying to confront the issue get little support in Poland.

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GAZETA WYBORCZA
Marek Beylin

The Cracks In Kaczyński's Grip On Poland Are Starting To Show

The right-wing leader is struggling to appease his coalition partners, raising the possibility of a realignment among the country's various political factions.

-Analysis-

WARSAW — Polish leader Jarosław Kaczyński of the hard-right Law and Justice Party, the PiS, has long followed one simple rule: "I am Kaczyński and I can do anything I want."

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GAZETA WYBORCZA
Piotr Beniuszys

A Smoking Ban On Balconies? Warsaw Tests The Edges Of Freedom

Proposals to ban smoking on private balconies are led by activists trying to modify citizen’s lifestyles and fight 'ideologically different phenomena,' even when the real harm of these divergent behaviors is negligible.

-Essay-

WARSAW — Could there soon be a ban on smoking cigarettes on balconies in Warsaw? Or maybe one day even smoking inside private apartments? A smoking ban on balconies has already been introduced in Lithuania, so there is a precedent and nothing seems to stand in the way of a Polish version. Renata Niewitecka, a council member of the city of Warsaw decided to consult the residents on the issue. If the majority wants to ban the minority from smoking on balconies, will the council democratically vote for such a ban? Only time will tell.

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GAZETA WYBORCZA
Eliza Michalik

Religion In Times Of COVID: A Polish Story Of Mass Hypocrisy

The presence of the faithful at Mass, regardless of the threat to their health and lives, is essential for the Church to physically survive. And the state is an accomplice.

-Essay-

WARSAW — We're going through another complete lockdown in Poland, which costs the economy 1.3 billion zlotys (280 million euros) a day — and churches are still open. What's more, before Christmas, the nation's Catholic bishops issued a statement encouraging the faithful to attend mass "out of concern for their health."

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GAZETA WYBORCZA
Paweł Wroński

What Ireland Can Teach Poland About Abortion Rights

The 2012 death of Savita Halappanavar, who was unable to get an abortion in Ireland, set off nationwide opposition to a ban on the procedure. What happens when a similar case arises in Poland?

-Analysis-

WARSAW — Have Jaroslaw Kaczynski and his PiS political party allies ever heard about the tragedy that happened in Ireland eight years ago? Do they know what unfolded in a waiting room of the Galway Roscommon University Hospital?

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Geopolitics

Photo Of The Week: This Happened In Warsaw

Poland is a nation divided. On October, its constitutional tribunal ruled that terminating pregnancy due to fetal defects was unconstitutional, making abortion almost completely illegal in a country with strong influence of the Catholic Church and among Europe's most restrictive laws on this and other social issues.

The abortion ruling sparked massive protests across the country, led by a young generation of Polish citizens. What is most notable, perhaps, is that the demonstrations continue, including Dec. 13 when a general strike was organized to coincide with the 39th anniversary of the introduction of martial law in Poland during the Communist era.

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Geopolitics
Philipp Fritz

COVID-19 Be Damned: How Poland Is Beating Another Crisis

Compared to other EU member states, Poland was barely affected by the international financial crisis or the refugee crisis of 2015. Now, the country could emerge from the coronavirus pandemic in a stronger position than before.

WARSAW —There were ten Polish flags fluttering in the background but no sign of European stars when Polish president Andrzej Duda and Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki laid out the positive results of a Europe-wide investment program. The red-and-white flags showed that they considered it their achievement— a Polish achievement. "We wouldn't have had such success," said Morawiecki, "if we'd continued to rest on our laurels."

According to President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen, 750 billion euros will be pumped into Europe's economies to guard against the danger of a post-coronavirus economic crisis. Poland is set to be one of the main beneficiaries, receiving 63 billion euros. Only Italy and Spain, which have been hit particularly hard by Covid-19, are due to receive more.

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