WARSAW (Reuters) – The plane crash that killed Poland’s president and leading opposition politicians has removed at one stroke key opponents of Prime Minister Donald Tusk and his ruling centrist Civic Platform (PO).
While a shocking blow to Poland’s body politic, analysts say constitutional mechanisms will ensure there is no power vacuum and there will not be any long-term impact on stability.
WARSAW (Reuters) – Poland is celebrating the 200th birthday of one of its most famous sons, composer Frederic Chopin, with a week-long marathon of recitals of his music, a commemorative bank note and a new state-of-the-art museum.
Internationally famed pianists including China’s Lang Lang, Israel’s Daniel Barenboim, Polish prodigy Rafal Blechacz and American Garrick Ohlsson are playing to packed concert halls and Chopin’s wistful face gazes from posters on every street corner.
There was something missing from our post yesterday entitled Pope John Paul remains touchstone for Poland’s Catholic Church — a link to the story Reuters published based on the interview that Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz gave to Gabriela Baczynska and me. Since it hasn’t been posted separately on the web, here’s the story:
KRAKOW, Poland, Dec 16 (Reuters) – The Roman Catholic Church should use the EU’s new Lisbon Treaty to make its voice heard on moral issues in a Europe that has lost its Christian moorings, a leading Polish churchman said.
Four and a half years after his death, Pope John Paul II remains a dominant presence in Poland’s Roman Catholic Church. Pictures of him are still ubiquitous in his homeland, and not only in churches. His former private secretary, Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, regularly invoked the name of the Polish-born pontiff during an interview in Krakow with Reuters, either lauding his role in the victory of democracy over communism in eastern Europe two decades ago or speaking of the need for the church today to follow his example in reaching out to other faiths in a spirit of ecumenical dialogue.
Perhaps the issue playing most on the cardinal’s mind was the expected beatification of John Paul by his successor, Pope Benedict XVI. Beatification is the last step before sainthood. Benedict put his predecessor on ae fast track shortly after taking over at the Vatican in 2005. Dziwisz said the process was now well advanced but the timing of a final decision depended on Benedict.
WARSAW (Reuters) – Poland stands ready to take part in a revamped missile defense system unveiled by Washington last month, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said after meeting U.S. Vice President Joe Biden Wednesday.
Poland and the Czech Republic are still smarting from President Barack Obama’s decision to scrap Bush-era plans under which they would have hosted elements of an ambitious missile shield to protect against possible long-range attack from Iran.
WARSAW, Oct 21 (Reuters) – U.S. Vice President Joe Biden tried to reassure Poles and other central Europeans on Wednesday that the Obama administration would not strike any deals with Russia affecting their security over their heads.
Poland and the Czech Republic are still smarting from Obama’s decision to scrap Bush-era plans for an ambitious missile shield to protect against possible long-range missile attacks from Iran. Russia strongly opposed the plans.
Biden, visiting Warsaw on Wednesday, is expected to propose that Poland could host SM-3 interceptors targeting short and medium-range missiles, under an alternative missile defence plan unveiled by Obama last month.
"We have no agreements with Russia at central Europe’s expense and we will not sign any such agreements," Biden told the Polish daily Rzeczpospolita in an interview before his trip, which will also include Romania and the Czech Republic.
"Nothing about you without you," Biden added, using a phrase dating back to the 1990s after the fall of communism that underlines Washington’s commitment to take no decisions affecting the region’s security without full consultations.
"We honestly believe that improving the mood between the United States and Russia will contribute to improving security in Europe and will bring benefits to our allies," he added.
Obama has made "resetting" relations with Russia a major foreign policy objective as he needs Moscow’s cooperation on Iran, Afghanistan and other strategic issues.
Russia has warmly welcomed his decision to shelve the Bush missile shield plan, which Moscow had regarded as a direct threat to its own security. It is awaiting more details on the new missile defence plans but says they are less worrisome.
Obama’s plans envisage the deployment first of sea-based interceptors and then of land-based systems involving the SM-3s.
For NATO ally Poland, perturbed by Russia’s more assertive foreign and security policy, the type of system is less important than a clear U.S. commitment to its security.
Poland, which joined NATO a decade ago, has long complained that it hosts no U.S. troops or major military installations despite a strong track record of sending troops to help in U.S.-led missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"We do not care so much about the hardware, but about the perception that the security status of this region is equal to that of western Europe," Witold Waszczykowski, deputy head of Poland’s National Security Bureau, told Reuters on Wednesday.
Polish and U.S. negotiators are also hoping to conclude talks on Wednesday on a "status of forces" agreement (SOFA) that would permit the temporary deployment in Poland of a Patriot missile battery.
The SOFA governs the legal aspects of U.S. forces in a host country.
Under a deal negotiated with the Bush administration in parallel with the missile shield plan, Poland secured a commitment that the United States would send an armed Patriot battery to Poland from Germany several times each year until 2012 to help upgrade Polish air defences.
"I understand they will continue the (SOFA) negotiations this morning," said Waszczykowski, adding that taxation of visiting U.S. forces was the main remaining stumbling block. (Editing by Tim Pearce)
WARSAW, Oct 16 (Reuters) – A senior U.S. official told Poland on Friday it could be one of the sites for interceptors envisaged under President Barack Obama’s revised plans for missile defence in Europe.
Poland and the Czech Republic are still smarting from Obama’s decision to shelve a Bush-era plan to install elements of a missile shield on their territory to protect against possible long-range missile attacks by Iran.
Under the new project, Washington will first deploy sea-based interceptors and then in a second phase deploy land-based systems involving SM-3 interceptors targeting short and medium-range missiles.
"Poland could host one of two land-based SM-3 sites, with of course the agreement of the Polish government," U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense Alexander Vershbow told reporters.
Vershbow briefed Polish officials on the details of the new strategy, which is meant to be more flexible than the Bush plan and to partly address Russia’s concerns about the deployment of permanent long-range interceptors close to its territory.
"(The Americans) presented very detailed information about the architecture of the European part of the system," Polish Undersecretary of State for Defence Stanislaw Komorowski said.
"(The new system) is more efficient when it comes to today’s threats and those which will appear in the coming years."
The key concern for NATO member Poland has been not so much the kind of missile system deployed as the implicit U.S. commitment to its defence implied by the stationing of U.S. military hardware on its soil.
Some officials in Poland and the Czech Republic have expressed concern that Moscow, increasingly assertive in foreign and security policy, might interpret Obama’s decision to ditch Bush’s missile defence shield as a sign of weakness.
Many Poles, in particular, still view Russia, its communist-era overlord, as a potential security threat, especially after last year’s conflict in Georgia.
In that vein, Komorowski confirmed plans to bring a U.S. battery of Patriot missiles to Poland in the near future.
"They will be armed and equipped with elements allowing for integration with Polish defence systems," he said.
Under the Patriot deal, agreed in August 2008, the battery — armed with about 100 missiles — will be based in Poland for a short period each year until 2011 to enable training and preparation of Polish troops and defence systems.
A battery would be permanently stationed in Poland from 2012, Komorowski told Reuters earlier this year.
Polish and U.S. officials are currently trying to conclude a status of forces (SOFA) agreement regulating legal aspects of any deployment of U.S. military personnel in Poland.
The Dziennik daily said on Friday the two sides could reach agreement as early as next week, just before the planned visit to Warsaw on Wednesday of U.S. Vice President Joe Biden.
Although Russia initially welcomed Obama’s scrapping of the Bush-era plans for missile defence, which it had seen as a possible attempt to neutralise its own vast nuclear arsenal, it has grown increasingly worried about what may replace them.
On Thursday, Moscow expressed concern about U.S. talks with Poland’s neighbour Ukraine on the use of radar stations there.
WARSAW (Reuters) – Polish interest rates should not fall further and some tightening of monetary policy will likely be needed next year to ensure inflation remains contained, central bank policymaker Dariusz Filar said on Wednesday.
Speaking at the Reuters Central European Investment Summit shortly after the Polish central bank kept interest rates on hold, Filar also said high levels of public debt were the main challenge facing Poland’s economy in the next few years.