Published: January 13, 2016
Jarosław Kaczyński, Chairman of the Law and Justice Party (PIS), who, so far, has rarely commented on Beata Szydło’s government’s first weeks in office talks with o. Dariusz Drążek, CssR, from Nasz Dziennik.
For the last 25 years, Kaczyński has been known mainly for his devotion to his country. He now claims that Poland’s political system has been expropriated and almost shattered by a close network of influence. Kaczyński also talks about pro-social legislative initiatives of his party and speaks candidly about its opponents, for example referring to certain actions by some exposed attorneys as “rokosz,” which is a medieval Polish term signifying an armed rebellion against the king, or, in today’s terms – against the government. Kaczyński analyses the hypocrisy of the Polish media and discusses the ways to change them into a reliable means of communication. He also talks about further plans of dealing with threats, in particular the attacks on PiS “in the name of democracy.”
What is the dispute in today’s Poland and what are the arguments of the both sides?
The dispute is about two things. The first matter, a bit elusive to the public and commentators, is about the Constitutional Tribunal. It is, in fact, a dispute whether Poland should be a democratic or a corporate country; whether democratic mechanisms such as national elections define the public life in Poland, or whether it is one of the important but not the most important and not decisive mechanism, since the actual power lies elsewhere. The corporations create the state apparatus, which remains independent from a democratic choice of the people. Such mechanism actually limits the democratic choice. Such concept of the country was once presented by Donald Tusk in his speech at the Sejm in connection with the Amber Gold scandal, and although it constitutes the essence of the entire dispute, it remains a taboo.
If we consider more practical matters, the dispute comes down to whether all projects and undertakings designed to introduce the real positive change can be implemented. I am convinced that the Constitutional Tribunal, after the take-over attempt of June 2015, was to be the bastion against any of the changes we wanted or would want to introduce. This includes changes to the judicial system, to the media, and social changes such as 500PLN per child. An averagely skilled attorney could easily come up with the ways for the Tribunal to make those changes impossible to implement, i.e. by appropriate statements designed to portray the Tribunal as an institution that strives to be generous, but unfortunately is being prevented from being generous by factors beyond its control. There are two issues here. The first one is the hampering of the positive change, which is to create a more just, honest and thereby more effective and better society. The other issue is the dispute about how the Polish state should function, whether democracy should be a genuine factor shaping our lives, or whether it should be just one of many factors affecting our lives, and not even the most important one.
Are we dealing here with the media “assassination of the government”? Do you think that this situation is reminiscent of e.g. 18th century laws, whereby the Tribunal you mentioned, would have the liberum veto on any of the government’s actions? Former Prime Minister Jan Olszewski said that he doubted this dispute would ever come to an end, as there are certain groups losing their privileges.
Yes, because one of the goals of this positive change I keep referring to is about depriving certain groups of their privileges and improving public equality; making it more tangible than it is today. At present this equality is written in the Constitution, but in fact, it is defunct. Obviously, the liberum veto might be referred to, but other aspects of the matter should be also considered. The Constitutional Tribunal fails to perform its duties. There are 200 unresolved cases, whereas 100 cases in which the Tribunal’s statement was made remain cold, and the Tribunal does not react. Its pace of work is unbelievably slow. The Tribunal’s members are on the same pay scale as the president, and frankly, they do little. It is excruciating to compare the Polish Tribunal to the German one, where the efficiency per one person is more than twelve times higher. Thus, the act, which at present is a subject of dispute, has been designed so that the Tribunal is to catch up with its backlog and further is not to get involved in political disputes, but is to continue with its actual cases. Polish legislation and secondary normative acts must comply with the Constitution. This aspect of improving the Tribunal, which is aimed at reinforcing the Tribunal in its proper role, is disregarded and neglected in the current debate because simultaneously we have to deal with the rebellion of the corporations. Today, the President of the Supreme Court calls for a completely unlawful examination of this act. It is a sort of a “rokosz,” and this situation fully justifies the term “rokosz,” which representing ill traditions of the First Polish Republic. The institutions in power which should be most balanced and most unbiased become involved in those processes. This needs to stop.
The Tribunal’s Chairman Rzepliński has announced that a panel appointed by the Tribunal will examine whether the Sejm’s resolutions regarding the selection of new judges, as well as the Constitutional Tribunal Act comply with the Constitution. The examination of the Act has been planned for as soon as possible, which means violating the order and articles of the amended Constitutional Tribunal Act. The Tribunal’s panel is unlikely to consist of 13 judges, as stipulated in the Act. How should such statements from the Tribunal’s President be interpreted?
This statement is nothing more than what I already have defined as “rokosz” against the law and order in the country. It is a fact that the Tribunal is subject to the Constitution when it examines the compliance of a law with the Constitution. But with respect to the organization and procedures of the Tribunal the Act governs, and that is confirmed by the Constitution. This Act is an executive act of the Constitution. There is a group of executive acts determined and referred to by the Constitution. There is no doubt that the Tribunal is subject to such an executive act. Announcing otherwise means rejecting the function of the Tribunal and its judges. I would interpret such statements as their declaration to resign from their positions as judges of the Constitutional Tribunal. If someone takes a job, but states that the workplace’s rules do not apply to him or her, it is an equivalent of a resignation. That is how I view this situation.
But how do determine it, Sir? Article 190 of the Constitution says: “the Constitutional Tribunal’s organization and its procedures are determined by the act.” Considering information spread by media, it would seem that the act does not apply to Chairman Rzepliński of the Tribunal. He refers to a different article, about the judges being subject only to the Constitution. Can the Polish state declare the “rokosz” and do something with the rebels?
There is a possibility of such action if a bill could be enacted that would define such actions by the chairman and judges of the Tribunal as being equivalent to their resignation. Despite the fact that judges, when examining acts’ compliance with the Constitution, must be subject to the Constitution in order to be able to perform their function, in this instance they must be subject to this Act. The Constitution emphasizes that clearly. The sneering for example by Gazeta Wyborcza, is based on this newspaper’s assumption that an average reader is unable to interpret the law. Arguments about literal interpretation seem to be conclusive, whereas interpreting the law correctly is discouraged. We are dealing with the “rokosz,” and that needs to stop. I look forward to seeing the position of the remaining judges of the Tribunal. It is obvious that Chairman Rzepliński’s statements are of personal nature. The court’s decision made by a defined number of attorneys will not be legally valid.
Foreign sources, the European Commission, the President of the European Parliament and many others – Martin Schulz, who even suggested the coup – have been expressing anti-Polish opinions. Are Poles bound to feel inferior and give in to a concept promoted for the last 25 years, that being European is better than being Polish? If foreign sources make such claims, there must be some truth in them?
I am sure this is what some people think, but I believe they are outnumbered by those who think otherwise, and number of these will continue to grow. The Polish people have gradually arrived at the conclusion that being European does not exactly make their lives any better, and being European includes being Polish anyway. Europe consists of many nations that vary from each another, and all those nations contribute to shared quality. By defending our democracy instead of corporations, by defending the freedom of religion presently threatened in some Western states and virtually non-existent in others, by defending the freedom of speech, Poland defends and protect the best qualities within the European tradition. We are an essence of true Europe today.
Why doesn't Polish media protest against the anti-Polish statements by German media or Brussels’ prominent politicians, but instead promote them with excitement and support them?
First of all, the ownership of the Polish media is a critical issue. Polish media are owned mainly by Germany and this fact influences their attitude. There are also estranged media that defend the privileges of the system they benefited from in exchange for properly impacting the public life. Our positive change will correct this problem. Should the Polish history have taken a different course, those small privileged groups would never be allowed to exert their influence; the influence resulting from war and communism. If not for this subjugation, they would be in Poland marginalized and disregarded.
Obviously, resistance is to be expected, but I do think that many of radio and TV employees look forward to the changes. In my view, we are able to implement them. There is a right to demonstration in Poland, and we do not intend to dispute it. The previous government violated democratic values on many occasions, for example by directing the ABW (Polish Internal Security Agency) to persecute a young man who had a website critical of the president, by blocking access to assembly halls for me and other opposition politicians. The state of affairs in the Parliament was disastrous. Today they talk about the “crawling” – which was the PO (Polish Civic Platform – the ruling party of former government) and Ryszard Petru’s term. Marshal Kuchciński of PIs was much more fair and polite towards the opposition than they were to us, allowing them for the acts of a parliamentary obstruction. I do not criticize him, and I think he should continue to do it, as it makes a lot of difference. But I had my microphone switched off on many occasions (by PO) despite being a leader of basically the only opposition party in the Parliament. I was also banished from speaking on numerous occasions by the PO Marshal of the Sejm. Some marshals, e.g. Mr. Komorowski, were happy to tolerate any sort of behavior, including insulting women. I remember one occasion, when I entered the podium to appeal to Marshal Komorowski not to allow insulting women, but I received no reaction from him, not to mention anybody else. All our party speakers were insulted in the Sejm while in opposition, in particular by Mr. Niesiołowski from PO. That was considered fair. I wish that fragments of past and present Sejm sessions could be broadcast one day, simply to prove what difference there is between them and us. Now Sejm is far more democratic and cultured.
There are opinions, though, that you have been acting too fast. Could you explain why? Why do you need changes in the legislation, changes to the Tribunal, why the projects about the 6-year-olds and the bank tax? Could you take things slower and not attempt so many changes at once? Challenging legal circles, media, bank and foreign capital by targeting supermarkets – these are risky steps.
If we acted slowly, we would get criticized for that. We simply want to implement the changes in order to provide quality to the public life and move forward. Our social and economic plans are big and we need time to carry them out. It is irrelevant how quickly we would introduce those changes, since we would be attacked regardless because those battle fields would be open anyway. Today, after 8 years of the PO government, Poland lost around 100 billion PLN on the VAT collection alone, and no one from the government reacted to that. Similar abuses of the system in other countries provoked effective reaction. I expect this matter to be investigated. In my opinion, small groups, both internal and external profited from such state of affairs and now defend a position, which is very convenient for them, being, at the same time, very inconvenient to Poland and the Polish people.
There are claims that the “500+ program” will do nothing to improve Polish demography or the lives of Polish families, because PiS will take more than it will give through the bank tax, as banks will charge their customers more, and the supermarket tax, as supermarkets will put prices up.
Competition among banks and supermarkets is too important for them to be able to burden customers with the taxes. These are just attempts to frighten people, because these taxes do not involve large amounts. There are always numerous arguments from those, who are being charged, as they don’t want to give anything to the poorer part of society. We reject that way of thinking. It is right to tax huge profits, and it does not threaten anything. There will always be voices claiming that putting prices up is pointless due to competition and possible elimination from the market. This is regular and positive market behavior. I will reiterate that these markets face enormous competition. Should there be any attempts to conspire about prices, it is up to appropriate governmental institutions to react to that.
Who is the biggest opposition to PiS today?
I have no intention of ranking them. There are various groups that try, but in fact this is a matter of the establishment. They firmly put their bet today on Ryszard Petru, who was given 6 hours on TV while at the same time the Polish president was given the air time of just 14 minutes. This also proves that the PO has disgraced itself with its own actions to the extent that those who drive the establishment no longer consider it to be the right defender of their interests. We will have to wait and see how the events unravel because Petru’s structure is treading on thin ice, and it can easily slip.
What are the 2016 predictions of the ruling party leader?
I think that we will strive to implement our program, despite the resistance, and that program will be effective for Poland, both in general and for specific social groups. I confirm that the amount of money that rural areas will receive from the “500+ program” will be higher than the current rural subsidies. The situation will improve. Anybody thinking that an impoverished, 4-member family will not benefit from 2000PLN a month must have no life experience. Even more affluent families with two kids will find life easier with 500PLN. I trust that Polish people will spend that money reasonably. Before the EU subsidies were in place, there were many voices claiming that Polish rural communities would not use them wisely, but the subsidies turned out to be well spent. Schooling improved significantly. The most impoverished families, who could not afford to send their kids to secondary schools, received the money and it enabled their kids to attend school. There are more similar examples. Obviously, diversity is present, but most Polish people are reasonable and know how to spend the money well. There are exceptions, but in general the program will improve the lives of Polish families, from both average and impoverished backgrounds. The poorest families’ situation will remain weak, but it still will be an improvement. I consider the program to be a good move based both on the national need to increase the Polish population, currently in decline as well as from common decency standpoint.
Source: Nasz Dziennik