Poland’s President Andrzej Duda on January 9 swore in new foreign, finance, defence, interior, health and environment ministers following a sweeping Cabinet reshuffle.
The reshuffle comes just over halfway through the conservative Law and Justice (PiS) government’s term in office.
“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,” said Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki. “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, economist Teresa Czerwińska is Poland’s new finance minister. Former Interior Minister Mariusz Błaszczak was appointed defence minister. The interior minister’s portfolio was handed to PiS party stalwart Joachim Brudziński, up to now a deputy parliamentary Speaker.
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.
Henryk Kowalczyk, until now a Cabinet minister heading the Government Standing Committee, is the new environment minister. He takes over from Jan Szyszko, who has locked horns with the European Commission over the cutting down of trees in the ancient Białowieża forest in Poland’s northeast. Brussels says this is a violation of the bloc’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.
As reported by The Guardian, the reshuffle comes as the Polish government remains under pressure from Brussels over its move to control over the country’s justice system.
While the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party is riding high in opinion polls, it remains under pressure from the European commission and several EU countries over its recent move to assert control over the country’s justice system.
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.
According to The Guardian, Piotr Buras, head of the Warsaw office at the European Council of Foreign Relations, said the reshuffle was “mainly for domestic consumption”, with the secondary motive of sending a positive signal to the rest of Europe.
“These are symbolic issues, but it will not lead to changes on substance,” he said, predicting the Polish government would not back down on judicial reforms that have triggered the EU’s rule-of-law process.
“The Polish government cannot take back the reform now because it would be a disaster in the sense of political communication in Poland… They would not be willing to do that, it is a no-go area.”