This article is part of New Europe’s: Our World in 2017

 BELGIUM – BRUSSELS – In 2015, voters gave the Law and Justice Party (PiS), their support during both the parliamentary and presidential elections. They voted for change. They voted for a Government, of the people, for the people, and not a Government made up of the liberal elite to serve the liberal elite. We recognise that its’ Poles, that are our sovereign, not the other way around. And I’m proud to say, in little over a year into a PiS Government, we have begun the hard task of implementing and delivering the people’s manifesto.

As a Government we have increased support for the family, particularly the young and the elderly.  We did this through a wide range of policies initiatives including Family 500+ and Housing+. We increased the minimum wage to 2000 PLN per month and to 12 PLN per hour, we lowered the age of retirement, and introduced free medicines for the over 75s.

As a Government we have begun a process to remove the structural disparities across our country. Rural areas across Poland were neglected and left behind, by the previous Civic Platform Government. Politicians were distant, the Government even more so. They felt their voice wasn’t been heard. And I know this to be true, as I represent one of the furthest regions geographically away from Warsaw than any other. We needed to change that. I’m proud we did. As a Government we have also focused on security. Poland’s membership of NATO is vital for our country and the region, because it helps to keep our nations secure and our community safe.

In July 2016, we hosted the NATO Summit in Warsaw and the Alliance agreed to concrete action to tackle the threats we all face from Russia, from terrorism and from illegal migration.

The multi-national spearhead force is now operational and capable of deploying anywhere on Alliance territory in just a few days and we secured agreement that there will be an increasing number of NATO troops present along our eastern flank.

Furthermore, we agreed to work together to defeat violent extremism, to tackle illegal migration, to increase defence expenditure and to maintain the Alliance’s Nuclear deterrent. We have demonstrated, and we will continue to demonstrate that Poles can feel safe and defended against threats in their country.

This year will be a big year for Poland. So expect so major changes. Alongside reforming education and healthcare we will prioritise economic growth. Prime Minister Beata Szydlo has announced that the government will build a strong innovative economy based on the Polish potential, the ‘Responsible Development Plan’. In November 2016, we hosted Congress 590 which brought together representatives from Polish SMEs and large corporations. Congress 590 will provide recommendations and concrete policy options for our Government to implement.  We are determined to have the most suitable legal and economic framework in place to support aspiring entrepreneurs.

But importantly the social welfare of Poles will not be put aside while we stimulate the national economy.  We will increase the personal tax-free allowance of the lowest earners, because we believe the rich should not get richer on the back of some of the poorest people in our society.

It is simply not right that families with lower incomes are proportionally paying more tax than families with higher incomes. We will put an end to this inequality. I am entirely convinced that is the right path to follow. The economy should serve the people and build our nation, not the opposite.

Poland will also play its role as a regional leader working closer with our neighbours. We will organise a ‘Congress of Innovators’ in collaboration with the Visegrad Group. The recent success of the ‘Via Carpatia’ shows us the path to follow in terms of regional cooperation.

This year also marks the opening of Brexit negotiations. Poland respects the sovereign decision of UK and will not present any terms or conditions when it comes to the date of triggering Article 50, because we believe that this is the sovereign decision of the UK, and the European Union needs time itself to prepare for this process.

It is also very important this year to draw lessons from the British referendum, the European Union the British decision was not without reason. We need to think deeply in the European Union, why such an important state, such a big economy, decided to leave the Union?

The European Union needs to change, it needs to be reformed for it to become a stronger, better governed and more democratic institution. The Union first and foremost must begin to fulfil the expectations of its people. Rest assured, Poland will be very active in this process.

The leader of Law and Justice Jarosław Kaczyński said: “This programme [was] written by you, Poles from all over Poland, from small towns and villages, representing various professions, young and old”. Our mission is to serve the Polish people – something I believe we have begun to achieve. This year it will be my mission to make sure Poland’s unique voice is heard in Brussels, that we begin to make changes in Europe, changes that our peoples demand.