Meet Poland's Incoming Government Seeking to Shun EU Mainstream

  • Ruling party to re-assert national interests in EU debates
  • Law & Justice plans more taxes on banks and larger retailers

Two election victories in six months by Jaroslaw Kaczynski’s Law & Justice party give the former Polish prime minister the mandate to impose his sweeping economic and foreign-policy agenda.

With an unprecedented majority in parliament and backing from ally President Andrzej Duda, Law & Justice founder and leader Kaczynski, 66, decided to remain the power behind the throne. He picked a lesser-known party colleague to run the country as prime minister, a similar tactic he used when in power in 2005-2007. A decade ago, he kicked out his premier and installed himself in the job after eight months.

Kaczynski criticized European Union plans to take in refugees, which he said may irreversibly change the continent’s Christian heritage as well as introduce infectious diseases. He also argued for a 1.4 trillion zloty ($354 billion) investment program to allow Poland’s $548 billion economy to grow faster and improve job prospects.

Beata Szydlo, 52, Prime Minister

Beata Szydlo

Photographer: Bartek Sadowski/Bloomberg

With a degree in ethnography and courses in culture management, Szydlo was picked as the party’s candidate for premier after managing Duda’s surprise victory in May’s presidential ballot. The daughter of a coal miner, she marketed herself as a woman of the people who understands the struggles of ordinary Poles left behind by the nation’s economic expansion.

Calm and composed with her dark hair cut short, Szydlo has said Poland can’t succumb to EU “blackmail” on taking in more migrants and labeled Russia her country’s “enemy.” Her cabinet’s priority will be to boost benefits to families with children, she said.

Mateusz Morawiecki, 47, Deputy Prime Minister for Economy

Mateusz Morawiecki

Source: Bank Zachodni WBK

He will be in charge of coordinating the government’s economic policies and hold the post of Development Minister. Morawiecki was the chief executive of Banco Santander SA-owned Bank Zachodni WBK SA, the third-largest Polish lender by assets, and member of the council of economic advisers for Donald Tusk, the country’s prime minister in 2007-2014. Since he took over in 2007, Zachodni more than tripled its assets, growing organically and through takeovers while doubling profits. His bank has limited exposure to Swiss-franc mortgages, which Law & Justice seeks to convert into zloty loans, saddling lenders with most of the costs.

Poland has fallen into a “middle-income trap” where wages a low and their quick increase would hurt competitiveness, he said in an economic speech on Nov. 7. On the other hand, Poles already earn more than the poorest countries, forcing foreign investors to move their production “further east.” The country should “specialize intelligently,” finding niches such as ship-building, biotechnology and electronics, he said.

Pawel Szalamacha, 46, Finance Minister

Pawel Szalamacha

Photographer: Piotr Malecki/Bloomberg

A former deputy treasury minister from 2005 to 2007 and lawyer at Clifford Chance LLP in Warsaw, where he worked on state asset sales. He has since voiced support for more government involvement in the economy. He co-wrote Law & Justice’s bills for levies on banks and big supermarkets, as well as for converting Swiss franc-denominated home loans into zloty.

Szalamacha told Bloomberg in September that he’s against the introduction of the new bank tax at the same time the industry will be burdened with the costs of the Swiss loan conversions. He said the mandate of Poland’s central bank can be expanded to include economic growth “without any risk for zloty stability.” He seeks a loans plan for the monetary authority based on a program by the Bank of England. The “first steps” of the new government should be to amend the 2016 budget to include bank and retail taxes, he told Rzeczpospolita daily on Oct. 22.

Antoni Macierewicz, 67, Defense Minister

Antoni Macierewicz

Photographer: Lukasz Szelag/Getty Images Poland/Getty Images

A leading proponent of the theory that Law & Justice’s political opponents “assassinated” President Lech Kaczynski, Jaroslaw’s twin brother who died in a plane crash in Russia five years ago. As head of the country’s military counter-intelligence services in 2006-2007, he published the names of Polish army spies, which critics said put them and their families in danger. Tall and slender, Macierewicz suggested during the election campaign that European Council President and former Polish Premier Tusk may have been a communist-era agent for Germany. Shortly after that accusation, Szydlo said that she would opt for a more moderate politician as her defense minister, yet Macierewicz was eventually chosen for the post.

Witold Waszczykowski, 58, Foreign Minister

Witold Waszczykowski

Photographer: Bas Czerwinski/AFP/Getty Images

Historian who served as deputy head of the National Security Bureau under late President Kaczynski in 2008-2010. He was a leading negotiator in talks with the U.S. about a missile shield program for NATO-member Poland during his stint as deputy foreign minister in 2005-2008. His foreign policy priority is “safety in the face of the Ukrainian conflict.” Other goals include the country’s position in the EU as well as the bloc’s climate policies, which “may lead to serious perturbations in Polish industry,” Waszczykowski told Super Express daily on Nov. 5.

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