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05/12/2016

Poland unveils new cabinet line-up

Central Europe

Poland unveils new cabinet line-up

Grzegorz Schetyna to replace Rados?aw Sikorski as foreign minister

Poland’s cabinet reshuffle after Donald Tusk’s resignation to become European Council president reflects a shift away from his political line, despite the fact only five ministers have changed.

Ewa Kopacz, expected to be the new prime minister, has announced the line-up of her cabinet. While most ministers kept their portfolios, some essential changes will take place.

The high profile foreign minister is leaving the cabinet and will take over as Speaker of the Sejm (lower chamber of the Polish parliament), constitutionally the second most important position in Poland.

But that constitutional position does not necessarily translate into real power. This new purely domestic post may tame his strong temperament and, worse, bereave Poland of a strong and internationally esteemed voice in foreign affairs.

Sikorski’s successor is Grzegorz Schetyna, ex deputy prime minister and minister of the interior, now chairing the Sejm’s Committee for Foreign Affairs. 

Schetyna, earlier one of the most popular Civic Platform politicians, was ousted from the forefront of Polish politics by Tusk.

Now, as Tusk is leaving for Brussels, Schetyna has a chance to return receiving the portfolio that Sikorski has made the strongest inside the cabinet.

Kopacz said that she chose him because of his “professionalism, strong personality and as he was a good chair of the committee for foreign affairs. Now, one year before the elections it is especially important that he is a person that won’t make irresponsible decisions, will cooperate with the prime minister and minister of national defence.”

Swopping cabinet for Commission

El?bieta Bie?kowska is leaving the helm of the “super-ministry” of infrastructure and development to become EU internal market commissioner.

Maria Wasiak will take over, leaving the management board of PKP S.A. – Polish State Railways Public Limited. Prior to her career at PKP, Wasiak served as a chair of political bureau to Tadeusz Syryjczyk, minister of transport in Jerzy Buzek’s government.

Cezary Grabarczyk will replace Marek Biernacki as minister of justice. Grabarczyk is now said to have the strongest position in the Civic Platform, so he will be an important part of Kopacz’s building of her own political power, independent from Tusk.

Andrzej Halicki, chair of the Masovian Civic Platform is to replace Rafa? Trzaskowski, previously an MEP, at the helm of ministry of administration and digitalization.

This choice bolsters the position of the anti-Tusk faction formed by adherents of Grzegorz Schetyna the new foreign affairs minister.

Probably the biggest surprise is the appointment of Teresa Piotrowska for the position of the minister of the interior.

It’s a surprise because she has been utterly invisible at the forefront of the Polish political scene. This modest long-time MP, involved in the local and regional politics of her hometown Bydgoszcz, was planning to retire in only a year. 

Kopacz said that “ministerial portfolios in Europe are handed down to strong women. Piotrowska is one of them”. It is said that Kopacz and Piotrowska are friends.

Last but not least Tomasz Siemoniak, the present defence minister, who keeps his portfolio, is promoted to deputy prime minister.

It is a sign that in the context of the ongoing Ukraine-Russia conflict Kopacz will treat defence policy as the top priority.

The new government is more domestically-oriented than previous one that embraced internationally esteemed politicians – Rados?aw Sikorski and Jacek Rostowski. It might be linked to the fact Ewa Kopacz herself has always been occupied with home issues as an MP, health minister, and then parliamentary speaker.

However, it is said that this move away from a foreign-oriented political outlook means handing over the external portfolio to the President Bronis?aw Komorowski. And the portfolio will also partly remain in the hands of Donald Tusk to preside over the European Council and control the political ambitions of foreign affairs minister.

Another evident change is a slight feminization of the cabinet’s make-up, with two more women than in the Tusk’s government – one of them actually in the drivers’ seat.

New cabinet (changes in bold):

Ewa Kopacz, Prime Minister

Tomasz Siemoniak, deputy Prime Minister, Minister of National Defense

Janusz Piechoci?ski, deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Economy

Bartosz Ar?ukowicz, Minister of Health

Andrzej Biernat, Minister of Sports and Tourism

Cezary Grabarczyk, Minister for Justice

Maciej Grabowski, Minister of the Environment

Andrzej Halicki, Minister of Administration and Digitalization

W?odzimierz Karpi?ski, Minister of Treasury

Joanna Kluzik-Rostkowska, Minister of National Education

Lena Kolarska-Bobi?ska, Minister of Science and Higher Education

W?adys?aw Kosiniak-Kamysz, Minister of Labour and Social Policy

Ma?gorzata Omilanowska, Minister of Culture and National Heritage

Teresa Piotrowska, Minister of the Interior

Marek Sawicki, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development

Grzegorz Schetyna, Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mateusz Szczurek, Minister of Finance

Maria Wasiak, Minister of Infrastructure and Development

Jacek Cichocki, Minister – Head of the Chancellery of the Prime Minister