Notes From Poland
If Poland does not fight to protect its values, it could follow in the footsteps of Ireland, which has become a “Catholic wilderness with rampant LGBT ideology”, Jarosław Kaczyński, chairman of the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party and the country’s de facto leader, has warned.
Elsewhere in an interview with conservative weekly Sieci, Kaczyński discussed plans to “bring order” to the media landscape, the need for “further reform of the judiciary”, and ongoing negotiations over an autumn government reshuffle.
“LGBT ideology threatens our civilisation”
The PiS chairman reiterated his warnings about the dangers of “LGBT ideology”, a term he and his party use to refer to ideas imported from the west that they claim threaten Polish traditions, culture, religion and even the state itself.
“Those who do not fight – and there are many examples in Europe – have lost,” Kaczyński told Sieci. As one such example, he pointed to Ireland, which was once, like Poland, a bastion of Catholicism but has now become a “Catholic wilderness with rampant LGBT ideology”.
“I will not let us be defeated by…this threat to the very foundations of our civilisation,” promised Kaczyński, who holds no formal state position beyond being an MP but is recognised as the true power behind the government. “This trend needs to be fought – albeit wisely.”
The PiS chairman said that there must be a “willingness to use all the means at the state’s disposal” to combat LGBT ideology and other challenges to traditional Polish values.
One way of doing this would be to use schools to teach children “why this is bad and what [purpose] it actually serves. Because it is not detached from a global structure of interests”.
Last week, a government minister called for a ban on “promoting LGBT ideology” and on teaching gender studies in universities and schools.
“Media must be put in order”
Elsewhere in the interview, Kaczyński was asked about the ruling coalition’s plans. Negotiations are currently underway between PiS and its two junior coalition partners – United Poland (Solidarna Polska) and Agreement (Porozumienie) – about restructing the government and setting its agenda for the next three election-less years.
The PiS chairman said that at the top of the agenda are restructuring Poland’s media landscape and continuing the government’s overhaul of the judiciary.
“The media [landscape] needs to be corrected, put in order, because at the moment we have a colonial mentality,” he said. “This must be changed, and that is obvious.”
PiS holds a long-stated aim of “repolonising” and “deconcentrating” media in Poland, by which they mean reducing what they claim is the dominance of some foreign (mainly German) concerns that own many Polish media outlets.
Critics, however, argue that the real aim is to neutralise media critical of the government – some of which have foreign owners – and to help government allies take control of them. They note that, while many local and regional outlets are foreign owned, among national newspapers and radio and TV stations, most have Polish owners.
Any move to reduce foreign ownership could potentially infringe EU law and bring conflict with Brussels. It could also affect relations with the United States, an important ally, whose ambassador has repeatedly defended American-owned Polish station TVN from government criticism. Kaczyński recently admitted that “international reactions” make repolonising the media difficult.
“Gowin crossed a line that no one should cross”
Kaczyński also told Sieci that “further reform of the judiciary is necessary”, although he said that there are “different views and ideas on how to do this”.
The PiS chairman made similar remarks last week, declaring that there is still “a problem with the rule of law in Poland”. He accused judges of making decisions that “violate the law” and called for them to be “removed from the profession”.
The PiS-led government has repeatedly come into conflict with Brussels over its judicial policies, which various international and domestic authorities say undermine judicial independence, bring courts under greater political control, and threaten democracy and the rule of law.
Reports indicate that the nature and extent of further judicial changes are part of ongoing discussions between PiS and its coalition partners.
United Poland, led by the hardline justice minister, Zbigniew Ziobro, is keen to implement an even more radical overhaul of the courts. Agreement, the other junior coalition partner, is seen as a more moderate influence on the government.
Kaczyński, however, says that the imminent government restructuring is “primarily about technical and organisational changes to make it more efficient”. It is believed that there will be a reduction in the number of ministries, from the current 20 to between 12 and 14. That would, however, likely reduce the number of positions available for PiS’s coalition partners.
Speaking with Sieci, Kaczyński admitted that the talks – which had initially been expected to finish in August – “may [still] take some time”. One issue that has been under discussion is the return to government of Agreement’s leader, Jarosław Gowin, who quit as deputy prime minister in protest against holding presidential elections in May.
“[Gowin’s return] would on the one hand be useful, as it would bring a certain bad period to an end,” Kaczyński told Sieci. “But on the other hand, in our [parliamentary] caucus, reactions would be bad. In the eyes of many, in May he crossed a line that no one should cross.”