04:41 GMT +323 November 2017
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    Level Talk with John Harrison

    Poland Heading for Autocracy and Isolation

    Level Talk with John Harrison
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    Observers may not realize the seriousness of events taking place in Poland. Some think the independence of Poland’s judiciary is under attack, the Polish government is becoming ‘populist,’ and Poland’s foreign policies are being leveraged to support certain autocratic policies.

    Magdalena Szmidt, a Polish lawyer and women's rights activist, and Scott Andrews, a well know writer and social activist who has written, among other books, a novel inspired by the Smolensk tragedy called: ‘Mourning Morning,' participate in this program.

    The program starts with a discussion about the EU's promised action to apply article 7 of the European Court of Human Rights against Poland. According to Magdalena, article 7 has been launched along with other measures against Poland, but according to Scott, the article is not being applied. "Today, ‘Human Rights Watch' launched a 37-page report saying that actually article 7 is not being applied. It is complicated. If you look at Hungary's relationship with Poland, if the EU is going to invoke article 7, they have to invoke it against Poland and Hungary simultaneous." But this is impossible because a full 27 votes are needed, and Hungary will veto any attempt to invoke article 7 against Poland. "Article 7 has never been applied before" Magdalena says. The Polish government may well already be going ahead with discriminatory procedures against judges, Scott says, but no public announcements are being made. Scott also talks about intimidation against journalists and other authoritarian measures which he says can be seen in Poland today.

    The man who set himself on fire in the center of Warsaw two weeks ago, and his 15-point manifesto is discussed. Scott says that everybody thought he was mad, but in fact, by studying his manifesto it appears that he was not mad at all. "When I first read through the manifesto, I was shocked by how coherent, how accurate, how lucid it is. It's 15 points relate to how the government is actually running the country now, and I have to say, I agree with every point. I cannot find fault with it….Surprisingly, journalists throughout Western Europe are not picking up on this." According to polls, Magdalena says, the government is quite popular. Scott comments: "I think it is important to jump back to the elections when PiS (the Law and Justice Party) won 37% of the vote. 5.7 million people voted for them out of a country with a population of 30 million." Both Scott and Magdalena doubt the authenticity of the polls, and criticize the introduction of controls on the media. "Recently the government has introduced a new media law banning foreign ownership of media, and it is taking control of the media once again. This leads to a situation where you can't openly oppose the government on a public platform." Scott says.

    In the second part of the program, the debate turns to international issues. As regards Russia, Scott points out that there is a historic resentment towards Russia because of communization….Poland is one of the few Eastern European countries that did not replace the leadership when the communists were ousted. Magdalena says that she feels that NATO is very important, but that she thinks that the geopolitical balance is shifting at the moment, in the direction of ‘populism.' "I am afraid that the Law and Justice government has a hidden agenda," she says. Scott elucidates: "This government intentionally picks public spats with different neighbors and gets coverage in local press to enable them to pass laws that they would never normally be able to. The demand for war reparations against Germany comes up again and again. If not Germany, the next week it will be reference to some great new piece of evidence that is going to prove completely that Russia killed the Polish President. However, the evidence never surfaces. What tends to happen is that news is published and then a new law about controlling the judiciary is pushed through parliament. In my opinion, this is what the hidden agenda really is….Point no., 7 of the manifesto that the man who set himself on fire wrote, says: I am against the building of a religion of the Smolensk tragedy, and dividing people on its basis…."

    Host John Harrison proposes that the Polish government is courting the US for economic reasons, as it has allowed US troops to carry out exercises on Polish territory. Both speakers think that this is unlikely. Magdalena points out that the economy is still going quite well. Scott points out that Poland does not have an awful lot to offer America. Particularly as the government has a track record of "saying one thing and doing the opposite….President Macron, during his last tour omitted Poland and Hungary. For the simple reason that he doesn't consider them to be equal partners. The way things stand within the European Union, I don't think it would be strange if one day the EU rolled out a two-tier system, and Poland gets lefts behind….At the moment Poland is trying to build the Three Seas Initiative, an alternative organization which omits the US."

    The Eugenic abortion debate which is taking placed in Poland is also discussed in this program. Scott criticizes the government's proposals to ban abortion for parents who know that their children have Down syndrome for example. Magdalena says that mothers should have the right to have an abortion if they wish to. "You cannot stop [abortions] all you can do is make it illegal and unsafe."

    Clearly Poland is heading into dark, uncertain times, and the rest of the world can be accused of not noticing, or not wanting to notice.

    We'd love to get your feedback at radio@sputniknews.com

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    autocracy, politics, European Union, Poland
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