Polish Justice Minister Gowin Fired on Embryo Controversy

Prime Minister Donald Tusk dismissed Justice Minister Jaroslaw Gowin for alleging German scientists were buying Polish embryos for medical experiments.

Marek Biernacki will succeed him as justice minister, Tusk said at a news conference in Warsaw today. Tusk initially had backed Gowin after he assured the premier that comments he made in a television interview were “manipulated” by a newspaper.

“Gowin has focused too much on the political aspect of his job,” Tusk said. “I don’t have time to explain ministers’ comments every week.”

The move could spark defections from Tusk’s Civic Platform party and cost the ruling coalition its parliamentary majority at a time when the European Union’s largest eastern economy is battling to avert its steepest slowdown in 12 years.

Civic Platform and its junior partner, the Polish Peasants Party, have 235 lawmakers in the 460-member parliament. In 2011, Tusk became Poland’s first post-communist prime minister to win re-election.

Tusk said he was “certain” the government’s parliamentary majority will stay intact and Gowin “never suggested” he would leave the party. Biernacki, a Civic Platform lawmaker and former interior minister, represents a “similar set of values” to Gowin, he said.

“It’s always been Civic Platform’s aim to avoid stirring up radical shifts and ideological emotions,” Tusk said.

Tusk’s relations with his minister had grown tense since Gowin and 45 Civic Platform lawmakers in January voted with the opposition against proposed legislation allowing civil partnerships for unmarried heterosexual and homosexual couples.

‘Personal Opinion’

Gowin called the proposal, modeled after French civil partnerships, “unconstitutional” during a parliamentary debate. That drew a rebuke from Tusk, who said the minister was expressing his “personal opinion.” He also threatened to fire him before backing off.

Gowin is the second minister to leave the government this month. Tusk dismissed Treasury Minister Mikolaj Budzanowski on April 19 for failing to inform him about a pipeline-expansion deal with OAO Gazprom.

The dismissal comes after parliament this month approved a package of reforms by Gowin that eases access to 50 legal professions including notaries, attorneys and legal councils.

“I used my time well,” Rzeczpospolita newspaper cited Gowin as saying on April 26. “On the one hand, you have my words that some may find controversial. On the other, there are my achievements from the past year and a half.”

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