Polish president swears in new government

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Poland’s president on Monday, September 22, swore in the government of incoming Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz, calling on her to prepare the country for a debate on eurozone membership. Kopacz took over this month as head of government from Donald Tusk, who resigned after he was tapped to become the next European Council chief in December. President Bronislaw Komorowski said one of the tasks facing the new government would be “to prepare Poland for the inevitable debate on strengthening our place in an integrating Europe.

“What I mean is a discussion, and then a possible decision, on eurozone membership,” he said at the swearing-in ceremony. Poland is obliged to join the single currency bloc as part of its 2004 European Union entry deal but has dragged its feet on the move, which would require it to amend its constitution.

Referring to Poland’s victory in the men’s volleyball world championship final over Brazil on Sunday, Komorowski said: “I thought it was a good sign. … And I wish the same success, through teamwork, to the Kopacz government and to us all.”  The reshuffled cabinet of 16 ministers includes 6 women, the largest number since the fall of communism in 1989, and five new ministers.

Radoslaw Sikorski was notably replaced as foreign minister after 7 years on the job, during which he made international headlines for his vocal stance on the crisis in neighboring Ukraine.  His successor, Grzegorz Schetyna from Kopacz’s centre-right Civic Platform (PO), was Tusk’s main rival within PO.

Analysts believe Kopacz gave him the new job to placate a strong personality that could stoke divisions within the party if he were left out of government — a crucial move in the run-up to next year’s general elections.

Schetyna said Monday he wanted to revamp relations with Moscow and Kiev, which have been unsettled by the crisis in Ukraine. He signalled a possible shift from Sikorski’s strong support for Kiev and sharp criticism of Moscow for its role in the Ukraine crisis.

“I will do everything to return to normal and stable relations between Poland, Russia and Ukraine,” he told the broadsheet Polska daily. “Poles must believe that our Eastern policy guarantees their security. This is what people expect from the government and the foreign minister.”

Kopacz herself has come under fire from both the opposition and local media for saying that Poland “shouldn’t be an active participant in this armed conflict” in Ukraine. “Poland should behave like a reasonable Polish woman” who puts home and family first, she said last week.

“Our safety, our country, our home, our children are what’s most important.”   Kopacz added, however: “Which doesn’t mean we should now be a dissenting voice within the (European) Union. Just the opposite. If this large European family decides to help Ukraine, we should absolutely participate.

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