Poland is known among tourists for its affordable price level.
Official language: Polish
Currency: Polish zloty (PLN)
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Agriculture and fishing
Poland’s climate is favorable for agriculture, but the country has very fertile soils. Yet over half the land area is cultivated. Cereals, potatoes, ham, geese, berries and apples are typical export products from Polish agriculture.
- CountryAAH: Comprehensive import regulations of Poland. Covers import prohibitions and special documentation requirements for a list of prohibited items.
Poland was the only country in the former Eastern bloc where agriculture was largely conducted by self-sufficient farmers. Nearly three million private farmers owned about 80 percent of the area cultivated. The rest belonged to state agriculture, whose land is now subdivided and sold to private individuals. Today’s farms are usually small (an average of over ten hectares) and not infrequently divided into several separate lots. Productivity is lower than on comparable western European farms. Almost 12 percent of Poles are employed in agriculture (2015) – twice as much as the EU average – but many more live in the countryside.
The peasants form a large and politically influential voter group. In recent years, the danger of plant protection products with neonicotinoids, which according to research causes mass death among bees, has also been discussed in Poland, but the government has granted a dispensary. Farmer organizations drive economic benefits for the farmers, sometimes with violent methods. Large government grants are paid to keep farmers’ income up. EU membership also brings great benefits to the peasants, including a large market with no barriers to trade and customs and cash grants. Food exports have increased significantly since EU accession in 2004, as has the quality of the products. For Poland defense and foreign policy, please check relationshipsplus.
After a slaughter risk scandal in 2019, when an export company was revealed to have received sick slaughter animals, the requirements for quality control in food production increased. In order to protect the breeding of pigs against plague, hunting for wild boar is conducted, but the hunt is disputed. The EU Food Safety Authority stated in early 2020 that the highly contagious disease of African swine fever was present in nine EU countries, including Poland. Strict rules are recommended to protect animal herds against infection. This applies, among other things, to handling feed and washing clothes and shoes so that you do not accidentally carry the infection to farms with healthy animals.
The number of farmers in Poland is declining slowly but surely. The small farms are expected to make it increasingly difficult to survive solely on what is produced. A common phenomenon in Poland is so-called worker-farmers, that is, people who live in the countryside and have some income from their farm but who are at the same time employed in industry.
More than a quarter of Poland’s surface is covered by forests, which supply the wood, furniture and paper industry with raw materials. Considerable new plantings are made.
Fish is relatively rare in the traditional Polish food voucher. Freshwater fishing (saturation is a popular occupation) is limited by environmental pollution that has affected a large part of the waterways and lakes. After the Second World War, a relatively large fishing fleet was built up, mainly operating in the Atlantic and Pacific. It developed into a significant export industry. In recent decades, however, depletion, increasingly wider economic zones and the EU’s quota system (not least in the Baltic) have excluded Polish trawlers from most wealthy fishing banks. Most caught herring and cod. In addition, some carp and rainbow are grown.
FACTS – AGRICULTURE
Agriculture’s share of GDP
2.4 percent (2016)
Percentage of land used for agriculture
46.9 percent (2016)
- Abbreviationfinder.org: Offers how the 3-letter acronym of POL stands for the state of Poland in geography.
The decision to raise the retirement age is revoked
Approves the PiS government’s proposal to revoke the decision in May 2012 to gradually raise the retirement age for most Poles, from 60 years for women and 65 years for men to 67 years for both genders; Thus, the retirement age remains the same as before. The decision worries the EU and many economists, but is popular among PiS supporters in the countryside.
New EU warning is rejected
EU Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans says that Poland cannot appoint a new President in the Constitutional Court until all previous demands on how the Court is to be handled have been fulfilled. He gives Poland a new two-month deadline to stop undermining the independence of the judiciary. But the Polish government immediately replies that it considers the question of the Constitutional Court as closed.
Temporary Chairman of the Court
President Duda appoints Julia Przyłębska as Provisional Chair of the Constitutional Court, following the expiry of the previous chairmanship. She is one of the judges appointed by the PiS-dominated parliament earlier this year under controversial forms. The court’s deputy chairman, Stanisław Biernat, who according to the constitution would have taken over, says he is set to lead the work himself until a permanent chairman has been appointed. At the same time, the president appoints another judge, creating a conservative majority in the court.
The government backs – temporarily
After several days of power measurement, the government is withdrawing the proposal for limited media access to Parliament for the time being. A new proposal will be submitted after the turn of the year. But members of the opposition continue their occupation of the plenary and demand that the debate and vote on the budget be redone.
Protests against limited media freedom
A government proposal to restrict media access to parliament and ban photography inside the parliament building sparked protests. After the turmoil in the House, the government moves the vote on the 2017 state budget to another venue, which causes the opposition and the media to question whether the vote has been legal, since transparency has been limited. Thousands of protesters block the exits of Parliament, so the government’s representatives must obtain police licenses to get out. At the same time, the plenary hall is occupied by dozens of members from opposition parties.
The right of demonstration is limited
Parliament adopts a law restricting the right to hold public demonstrations; According to the law, “periodic meetings”, public gatherings that are regularly held in the same place and at the same time, always take precedence over any counter-demonstrations. The critics see the law as an opportunity for the PiS government party to be able to hold regular public meetings on the air disaster in Smolensk 2010 without being disturbed by protests. An earlier proposal that demonstrations and meetings organized by the state or church should always have the right of preference was deleted in the final writing. Still, nearly 200 human rights groups and other independent organizations are appealing to President Duda to veto the new law, as it still gives the state the right to give priority to meetings that may be considered of national interest.
The cupmaker is degraded posthumously
13th of December
Generals Wojciech Jaruzelski and Czesław Kiszczak, who led the military coup in December 1981, will be postponed post-war military degrees, Defense Minister Macierewicz announces. For this, a change of law is needed, but it is expected to pass easily in the PiS-dominated parliament.
The graves of the Smolenskoffens are opened
The court staff opens former President Lech Kaczyński’s sarcophagus in Krakow to begin analyzing the remains in connection with a new investigation into the cause of the plane crash in Russian Smolensk 2010, when 96 Poles died. Most of the victims were senior officials and a total of 83 of them are to be examined with the help of Danish, Portuguese and Swiss experts. The work is expected to take up to one year.
New no to EU requirements
Foreign Minister Waszczykowski says the government does not intend to comply with the EU Commission’s demand that the changes to the Constitutional Court’s work be revoked. According to the Polish Foreign Ministry, the European Commission does not understand how the Polish judicial system works.
Ex-president is excavated
PiS leader Jarosław Kaczyński agrees that the remains of his brother, former President Lech Kaczyński, are excavated and autopsy in connection with an investigation into the plane crash in Russian Smolensk 2010 when the brother died. PiS has long questioned that the accident could have been due to mistakes by pilots and Russian air traffic controllers in connection with bad weather. According to the PiS government party, the then government and Russian authorities may have been behind a plot.
Expert criticism of judicial reform
The Venice Commission, the Council of Europe’s constitutional experts, again criticizes the changes made to the Constitutional Court’s activities, which, according to them, limit its independence and can make its work more difficult. They are also critical of the President’s right to appoint the President of the Court. The PiS government claims that the Commission has had preconceived opinions and based its assessment on factual errors. In addition, the government reserves the right to decide for itself what reforms to take, it is “not a matter for international institutions that do not know how our judicial system works”. The Venice Commission comments that this is the first time a member country refuses to cooperate and that it is offensive to state that its experts would sympathize with the Polish opposition.
Teacher goes out in protest
Thousands of teachers across the country are demonstrating against the changes in the education system proposed by the government. Teachers fear that thousands of jobs will disappear. According to the Government’s proposal for new syllabuses, greater emphasis should be placed on Polish history and literature as well as the Polish language.
French anger towards Poland
The French government is upset that the Polish government has canceled a $ 3.5 billion deal to buy 50 helicopters from the partially French-owned company Airbus. The agreement was signed by the previous PO government in April 2015 but has now been terminated by the PiS government. The French president cancels a planned visit to Warsaw and the government of Paris will oversee all defense cooperation with Poland. PiS decides to buy American helicopters of the Black Hawk model instead. Airbus is also upset by the Polish handling of the deal and CEO Tom Enders says no government has previously treated the company in such a “totally confused” way. The Polish government claims that it was Airbus that interrupted the negotiations.
The abortion law is withdrawn
The government is making a complete reversal and is opposed to the proposed new law on almost total abortion ban. When the bill is tabled in Parliament, it is voted down by 352 votes against 58 and 18 abstained. PiS leader Kaczyński says the party will always support the right to life, but that this particular law was not the right way. The government seems to have taken the impression of the strong protests and measurements that have shown that a large majority of Poles want to keep the current law. Since 1993, abortion is permitted only if a pregnancy is caused by rape or incest, if the mother’s life is in danger or the fetus has severe injuries.
Strike against abortion ban
Thousands of women strike against the government’s plans for almost total ban on abortion. Restaurants and government offices are closed, university lessons are boycotted and the entrance to the PiS headquarters in Warsaw is blocked by black-clad women.
Protest against abortion ban
Thousands of black-clad people are protesting outside Parliament against a proposal to almost completely ban abortion. Exceptions should only be allowed if the mother’s life is in danger. According to the bill, which is based on a citizens’ initiative but supported by the government and the Polish Catholic Church, the penalty for those who perform abortions should be increased from a maximum of two years in prison to five years. The protesters’ posters and banners include “Stop the fanatics in power”.
New finance minister with increased assignment
Prime Minister Szydło dismisses Finance Minister Szałamacha and replaces him with Development Minister Mateusz Morawiecki. At the same time, Morawiecki will be the head of a newly created committee that will be responsible for pushing through the government’s promises of sharply increased social initiatives. Independent economists question whether the government should be able to keep the budget deficit at the level required by the EU if it fulfills all generous election promises.
Protests in Warsaw
Up to 30,000 people participate in a demonstration organized by the government-critical organization KOD in Warsaw. The protests are directed at the government’s amended rules of the Constitutional Court. At the same time, some 6,000 doctors, nurses and other hospital staff are participating in a protest march against the low wages in the healthcare sector and the government’s inadequate budgetary investments in health care.
New EU call to Poland
The European Parliament, by a large majority, adopts a resolution urging Poland to resolve the country’s constitutional crisis before the end of October. The European Commission notes that the government has done nothing to resolve the crisis, which, according to critics, threatens the country’s democracy and the rule of law. The EU has given the Polish government a deadline until the end of October to amend laws that deprive the Constitutional Court of its independence.
The Supreme Judge is being investigated for crimes
Prosecutors are launching a preliminary investigation into crimes against the Constitutional Court President Andrzej Rzepliński. He is suspected of malpractice, or abuse of power, after refusing to accept the three new judges appointed by the PiS-dominated parliament. He describes the investigation as an attempt to intervene in the independence of the judiciary.
Court dispute hardens
The Constitutional Court refuses to approve the new rules of court activities adopted by Parliament in July. According to the court, the new laws contravene the country’s constitution. PiS chairman Jarosław Kaczyński says even before the ruling that the government does not intend to respect it because, according to him, the judges conduct politics and that their decisions are “private in nature”.
The EU gives a three-month period
The European Commission gives the Polish government a three-month deadline to revoke the amended rules of constitutional composition and activities.
Easier rules for the Constitutional Court
Parliament adopts a few amendments to the new constitutional court’s criticized new rules. The rule that decisions must be made by two thirds of the judges is abolished. In the most important cases, 11 of the 15 judgments must support a decision, not 13 as in the first amendment. The rule that all cases must be handled in the order they are received is changed so that a case can be postponed for six months if four judges so require. The opposition says this is not enough at all, and so does a spokesman for the European Commission.
Jews demand apology from minister
Jewish World Congress demands that Education Minister Anna Zalewska apologize for refusing to admit that ordinary Poles participated in a notorious pogrom in the village of Jedwabne in 1941, when at least 340 Jews were murdered. Despite the fact that Polish villagers’ active participation in the mass murder is well documented, the minister claims that it is disputed how the killing took place.
“Genocide of Poles during the war”
Parliament adopted by a large majority a resolution classifying Ukrainian nationalists’ massacres of 100,000 Poles during the Second World War as a genocide. The Ukrainian rebel army UPA wanted to expel Poles from present-day northwestern Ukraine as part of the efforts to create an independent Ukraine. The murder resulted in the Polish so-called Home Army killing 20,000 Ukrainians. In 2013, the Liberal-Conservative former Polish government pushed through a milder wording resolution to stay well with Ukraine and support its approach to the EU.
Reduced pension for Communist agents
The government decides that 32,000 people who worked at the dreaded Communist Security Service should have their relatively high pensions lowered to the national average. According to the government, this will mean savings of more than EUR 30 million per year for the state. Parliament is expected to approve the decision by a large majority.
Obama criticizes deficiencies in Polish democracy
In his visit to Warsaw, US President Obama is openly criticizing Poland’s handling of the Constitutional Court and urging the government to do more to ensure democracy. State Polish TV censors parts of Obama’s statement and replaces them with a speaker voice that expresses himself more positively.
American soldiers to Poland
The United States will deploy 1,000 soldiers in Poland and also place a brigade headquarters in the country, states US President Barack Obama in connection with a NATO summit in Warsaw.
The Constitutional Court Act is adopted
Parliament’s lower house adopts a revised law on changes to the Constitutional Court’s activities. Following foreign criticism, the government waives the previous requirement for the number of judges required to make a decision. In return, the new law says that new judges should be appointed by the ruling party. All of the 44 amendments tabled by the opposition are rejected. The law must be passed by the Senate and the President to take effect. When that happens, the Constitutional Court must start from scratch with all the cases going on. The court must also, with few exceptions, deal with all cases in the order in which they are received. Critics claim that the new rules run the risk of almost paralyzing the court.
The EU is investigating Polish logging
The European Commission is conducting a review of the Polish authorities’ harvesting of forests in Białowieża, a World Heritage-listed forest area on both sides of the Polish-Belarusian border. The forest contains unique plant and animal species as well as about 800 bison oxen (visants), Europe’s largest mammal. The authorities claim that felling is necessary to stop beetle infestation, while environmental organizations require that all of the Polish part of the forest be declared a protected nature reserve.
New criticism of Poland
The European Commissioner for Human Rights criticizes the Polish government for threatening human rights and undermining the rule of law through its changes in the justice system. The Polish government dismisses the criticism as “unilateral and without depth or analysis”.
Greatest NATO exercise since the Cold War
31,000 soldiers from 24 countries are launching the largest military exercise in NATO under Polish control since the end of the Cold War. Countries that have cooperation agreements with NATO also participate, including Sweden and Ukraine. Nearly half of the soldiers are from the United States. The purpose of the ten-day exercise, which goes by the name of Anaconda, is to strengthen the Alliance’s position in Eastern Europe in anticipation of what is perceived as an increased threat from Russia.
In 2017, the government decides to expand the armed forces from 100,000 men to 150,000. The Minister of Defense refers to the troubled international situation. Of the new 50,000 soldiers, 35,000 will be part of a semi-military force that will begin recruiting in the fall of 2016. Its primary task will be to prevent Russian infiltration in the eastern provinces which could aim to take control of Polish territory as has been the case in the east. Ukraine, explains the government.
Formal warning from the EU
One week after the EU deadline for strengthening the rule of law has passed, the EU is sending a formal warning to the Polish government. So far, the European Commission has never gone before a Member State. However, Hungary is expected to oppose any proposals to punish Poland for the government’s intervention against the Constitutional Court. The Polish government says that the European Commission gives a unilateral and distorted picture of the situation.
Poland and the EU are mutually optimistic
24th of May
The European Commission lets the Polish government’s deadline pass without action. Commissioner Frans Timmermans says the negotiations appear to be capable of a compromise, and Prime Minister Szydło says she is planning changes that will live up to the rule of law. No one reveals any details.
Szydło defies the EU
Prime Minister Szydło says in Parliament that her government will never give in to EU pressure. She accuses unnamed members of the European Commission of trying to “destroy the Union rather than see it develop”.
The European Commission says that the review of the Polish rule of law, which started in January, is in principle complete and that the Polish government is given five days to make “tangible improvements”. If not, the EU can start a process that could lead to Poland being deprived of its right to vote in the European Council.
March against the government
A quarter of a million people are reported to be participating in a government-critical demonstration in Warsaw. The protesters scan the slogan of the newly formed opposition coalition “Freedom, equality and democracy”. It is one of the largest manifestations in the capital since the communist regime fell in 1989.
New opposition alliance
A number of opposition parties form an alliance with the goal of protecting the rule of law in Poland. The coalition, named “Freedom, Equality and Democracy” encompasses a number of center and left parties such as the Liberal Modern, the Polish Peasant Party and the Democratic Left Alliance.
Counseling against racism is abolished
The government dissolves a state council which has been tasked with countering racism. The decision upsets the opposition and the country’s ombudsman, who points out that the number of hate crimes with racist motives has skyrocketed since last year. The government justifies the measure by saying that the Council has been “quite ineffective” and says that new bodies should be set up to deal with issues of racism.
Heavy case for freedom of the press
Poland is the country that drops most heavily in the Reporters Without Borders annual list of press freedom in the world. The country is ranked number 49, a fall on 29 placements since 2015. The reason is the National Conservative PiS government’s efforts to remove foreign media owners and hand-pick managers for the state-owned public service media.
The Constitutional Court is expanded
Approves the appointment of another judge to the Constitutional Court, which already has more members than the practice allows; The opposition says that the appointment, which was made at short notice, only delays the possibility of a peaceful solution to the constitutional crisis.
Criticism from the European Parliament
The European Parliament, by a large majority, adopts a resolution accusing the Polish government of “in effect crippling” the Constitutional Court, violating its constitution and undermining the rule of law by changing the rules of the Court’s activities. Prime Minister Szydło replies that the European Parliament should spend its time better than directing such an “attack” on the Polish state.
Requirements for total ban on abortion
The Polish Catholic Church demands a total ban on abortion. In a letter from the country’s bishops, to be read in all churches, it states that the country cannot maintain the compromise that has been in place since 1993, according to which abortion is permitted if a woman becomes pregnant through rape or incest, if the mother’s life is in danger or if the fetus is severely malformed.
Polish no to refugees
After 31 people have been killed and several 100 injured in Islamist terrorist acts in Brussels, Prime Minister Szydło says Poland cannot accept any refugees at all according to the EU distribution plan. In the past, the FiS government has agreed to accept the 7,000 refugees that the previous government has agreed to.
The Council of Europe is reviewing surveillance law
14th of March
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe instructs the Venice Commission to also review the new Polish law, which among other things makes it easier for the police to collect data from data traffic and store it for up to 18 months (see January 2016). For its part, the Polish Ombudsman intends to withdraw the surveillance law before the Constitutional Court on the grounds that parts of it may conflict with the constitution of the country.
New protests against the government
the 12th of March
About 50,000 protesters in Warsaw demand that the government “respect the constitution”.
The government rejects European criticism
11th of March
Spokesmen for the PiS government describe the Venice Commission’s report (see February 2016), now officially presented, as an opinion among other views and say that the government is not forced to follow its recommendations. The Venice Commission, made up of constitutional experts linked to the Council of Europe, criticizes the changes in the Constitutional Court as a threat to the rule of law and the democratic system.
Crisis around the Constitution
The Constitutional Court says that several of the changes in the court’s work that the ruling party PiS implemented (see December 2015) contravene the country’s constitution. The government responds that the court’s decision is illegal because it was based on the rules that applied before the change of government. The government also says it will oppose the Venice Commission’s (see February 2016) statement that the changes to the Constitutional Court violate the rule of law and threaten democracy. According to the Polish government, the Venice Commission has taken a position on political grounds, not legal ones.
The Council of Europe criticizes the government
The so-called Venice Commission within the Council of Europe says that the amended rules of the Constitutional Court are a threat to the Polish legal community. The Polish government itself had asked for a statement to respond to criticism from the opposition and the EU. The Venice Commission preliminarily considers that the new government’s appointments of judges have upset the Constitutional Court’s position as a counter-force to the parliamentary majority.
Wałęsa gets support
About 15,000 people are demonstrating against the Warsaw government. Above all, they express their support for President Wałęsa. For the first time, several opposition politicians are participating in the protests against the government.
Claims about Wałęsa are being investigated
The State Prosecutor’s Office opens an investigation into whether the Communist regime’s secret police falsified documents designating former President Lech Wałęsa as a Communist agent. An earlier investigation found in 2000 that rumors of his agent business were baseless.
The President accuses Wałęsa
President Duda accuses former President Lech Wałęsa of cooperating with the 1970s Communist Security Service. Rumors that the ex-president, hailed as the hero of those who toppled the Communist regime, would have been cooperative have flourished for a long time but have been re-drafted by the PiS government in the winter of 2016 since earlier secret documents published by the State History Institute are said to confirm this. Wałęsa admits he “made a mistake” but dismisses the allegations and says he’s prepared to defend his honor in court. PiS drives the thesis that the fall of the Communist regime was secretly propelled by the regime itself so that the same forces could continue to rule as before by utilizing, among other things, Lech Wałęsa as a puppet.
Child allowance is introduced
Parliament adopts a law on child support. Families with at least two children each month receive approximately SEK 1,200 per child from April. The child allowance was one of PiS’s election promises, along with lowered retirement age and new taxes for banks and foreign-owned department stores. The government’s hope is to be able to increase Polish childbirth, which with 1.3 children per woman is among the lowest in the world. Critics say the measures run the risk of damaging the state’s finances and the banking sector and slowing growth.
Supervision law is approved
President Duda approves the law on increased opportunities to monitor the Internet adopted by Parliament a week earlier.
Flight crash is re-investigated
The government is launching a new investigation into the Russia air disaster in 2010 when, among other things, the then President Lech Kaczyński was killed. According to the PiS government, “Russia’s responsibility” has so far been swept under the rug.
Easier for the police to monitor the internet
Parliament adopts a law that allows the intelligence service and the police to collect information from Internet traffic without having to go through the operators; The government claims that the law limits the police’s right to use the data and how long they can be stored, but the opposition criticizes the lack of legal oversight over the application of the law. The Polish Data Inspectorate, the Justice Ombudsman, several lawyers and NGOs also condemn the law. The critics fear that the authorities will utilize information that should be source protected in accordance with the rules of the judiciary, journalism and medical services.
The Prosecutor’s Office is subordinated to the government
Parliament adopts a law that gives the Ministry of Justice control over the prosecutor’s office. The Prosecutor’s Office has been independent from political control since 2009. Now the PiS government says it is correcting a “failed experiment” that has reduced the authority’s responsibility for its decisions. Through the new law, the Minister of Justice will simultaneously become national prosecutor with the opportunity to intervene in all prosecutors’ investigations. The opposition claims that the law allows PiS to keep track of prosecutors’ political views.
New opposition leader
Former Foreign Minister Grzegorz Schetyna is elected chairman of the opposition party Citizens’ Platform (PO). He was the only candidate to succeed former Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz.
Protests against surveillance
In continued demonstrations against the government, criticism is directed at its plans to ease the rules for the authorities’ interception of telephone and data traffic and to increase the government’s right to access collected digital material.
EBU is troubled by the media law
The European Broadcasting Union (EBU) describes the Polish government’s decision to take control of the public service media as a worrying attack on media independence.
The EU is examining the Polish rule of law
The European Commission decides to launch a review of Poland’s respect for the rule of law. The examination is mainly due to the changes in the constitution and the composition of the Constitutional Court.
Demonstrations against the media law
The first Saturday after signing demonstrates at least 20,000 people in Warsaw and thousands more in other cities against the media law. The government says in a greeting to Brussels that the European Commission should be careful of any action taken against Poland based on “unkind and distorted claims”.
The president writes under media law
7th of January
Despite criticism, President Duda signs the Media Act, which thus comes into force. Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, who is close to the Conservative Polish government, says Hungary will block any attempt by the European Commission to impose any sanctions on Poland.
Media law is reported to the Council of Europe
Four international press freedom groups report the new Polish media law to the Council of Europe. The organizations claim that the law is “totally unacceptable in a true democracy”. The four applicants are the European Journalists Association (AEJ), the International Journalists Federation (IFJ), the European Journalists Federation (EFJ) and the Committee on the Protection of Journalists (CPJ).