PiS Chairman on the "Stop Abortion" draft: "Someone wants to create a big protest movement against PiS and the Church"
“We couldn’t allow ourselves to create the foundations for such an attack, for events to take place similar to those in Western Europe but also in countries more Catholic than Poland, such as Ireland”, Law and Justice (PiS) Chairman Jaroslaw Kaczynski said in an interview with PAP. In the interview he also underlined that a sales tax should be put in place and that the government is working on a reprivatisation draft. He also said that the former the head of the MFA, Radoslaw Sikorski, withdrew from his decision demanding that Russia recognizes the site of the Tu-154M disaster as an extra-territorial area.
PAP: The Sejm eventually rejected a draft proposal to tighten abortion law. How did you manage to persuade some PiS parliamentarians – who had previously spoken in favour of directing the draft to the commission – to change their vote?
First things first, starting with a fundamental truth – this was not a PiS proposal. Those who initiated it – Ordo Iuris – later disappeared from the public debate. PiS remained and some of our parliamentarians positioned themselves in the public debate as if PiS was the initiator of the proposal. This was a misunderstanding, they no doubt did this in good faith, but PiS had absolutely nothing to do with this draft.
We have adopted the principle that every social proposal is passed on for further work. This why the leadership of the club, myself included, voted in favour of passing on the “pro-abortion” draft as well, although it is clear that this doesn’t mean that we accept this proposal, it was a matter of principle.
It turned out that someone wanted to use the project aimed at tightening abortion law in order to create a big anti-PiS movement, and we would have been able to deal with this, but also intended was a big movement against the Church. And the Church is very closely linked to Polishness, to the nation, it possesses the only axiological value system widely known in Poland.
An attack on the Church is in large part also an attack on Poland. We couldn’t allow ourselves to create the foundations for such an attack, for events to take place similar to those in Western Europe but also in countries more Catholic than Poland, such as Ireland.
PAP: Was the decision made by PiS regarding the Ordo Iuris proposal in any way influenced by the position of the Polish Episcopal Conference?
I do not want to appeal to the Episcopate, because the principle of our party is that we conduct policies on our own responsibility, not the responsibility of the Church. One can’t create a Church party, because the Church is a different type of institution and politics is inherently sinful, therefore I won’t make any appeals to the Church here.
We of course informed the head of the Polish Episcopate about our decision, I did this together with the prime minister and we talked to its leader. With regards to the Ordo Juris draft, we made the decision on our own responsibility, but I am convinced that we acted pro publico bono and completely according to our conscience.
PAP: Did the scale of the protests during "Black Monday" not persuade PiS to drop the issue of changes to the abortion law?
We do not see the point of withdrawing from making changes, but we definitely wont return to the proposal put forward by Ordo Iuris, because we regard them as terrible, I wouldn’t have supported it regardless of whether “Black Monday” had taken place. Because it simply goes against my views regarding what the state can do, what the limits are that the state cannot cross when it comes to intervening in people’s lives.
After the vote, some people – in particular those in conservative circles – accused PiS of abandoning its right-wing ideals when it voted to reject the “Stop Abortion” draft.
That is not the case, we will continue our efforts to make sure that there are far fewer abortions in Poland than there are now. It is still a matter of legal arrangements relating, on a different level, perhaps even within the current law, to abortion due to the condition of the foetus, and in particular due to Down’s Syndrome.
There are now around one thousand legal abortions, the overwhelming majority of them caused by Down’s syndrome. I hope that soon this will not be the case, that is our goal. But this needs to be properly prepared, one needs to convince society, in particular women and that is what we are going to do.
PAP: So you do not rule out amendments to the current abortion law, when it comes to the issue of eugenics.
I don’t rule this out, although I repeat that this needs to be prepared properly. But of course I rule out accepting proposals made in the Ordo Iuris draft – I say this in my own name – because they go against my conscience. However, we will strive to ensure that even difficult pregnancies — when the child is sure to die, severely deformed — will result in birth so that the child can be baptised, buried, and have a name.
We want this to be possible due to the real assistance which will be provided including through public funds. Of course, this would only apply to difficult pregnancies where the mother’s life and health are not at risk.
We will develop all of these institutions, such as, among others, prenatal hospices, which today are social, we will try to make sure that a woman who finds herself in such a situation receives very serious help. This could also apply to pregnancies that were a result of a crime, but of course here as well this can’t be forced, one needs to apply persuasion, but delicately and without pressure.
PAP: Education reforms have also stoked protests. The Polish Teachers Association has been very critical of education reform plans and protests have taken place in many cities. In your opinion, are these changes not happening too fast, is it not better to spread them over time?
We are being attacked in two different ways – on one hand, for acting too slowly, and on the other hand for acting too fast. The problem is that there is this old truth that if one wants to reform something then one has to do so energetically, otherwise the issue will pass.
And criticism of middle schools, because this is what the situation boils down to, was widespread, social research also showed that 70 per cent of society do not want them. The 8-4 system is logical, it means three educational cycles of four years.
On the other hand, this is also about moving away from the test system and returning to a certain integration of programmes, the idea is to build a cohesive society, not a society in which two people who have completed the same type of school are not able to communicate on various issues. It's not that. It also raises objections of an ideological nature.
Postponing reforms could mean that they don’t happen at all, because our opponents that are demanding this are hoping that they will come to power. In my opinion, these hopes are baseless. We need to make improvements, correct things; there are bound to be some problems, but that is the price of reform.
PAP: How do you evaluate the reaction of the French to the decision by the Polish government regarding the Caracal issue?
It was violent, nervous, but these things always only last for some time.
PAP: Will there be more changes to the government? Has the rolling stock been pulled, to quote a comment made a while ago?
Since the time that I said those words the rolling stocks have been strongly pulled, not always in practice, but at least in terms of prepared plans for action, for example in health care. A proposal has been prepared and will be put into force, a new means of financing the health care service, creating a network of hospitals and so on.
There were also questions on, for example, the Morawiecki plan and the instruments for its implementation – this has been resolved. There were questions relating to the dealings of the Treasury, changes have also been made, the ministry will be liquidated, an agency will be formed which will protect these matters from a legal angle; there will also be a new completely mechanism for selecting people for management and supervisory boards.
We will also combat every form of nepotism, I talked to the prime minister about this a few hours ago. We are talking about concrete decisions, it is not the case that there is a flood of nepotism but one can remove people who were hired according to such principles. We are going to head in such a direction, in order for everything to be clean and professional.
It is not like some people have written, that I “woke up” after Krynica, this is complete nonsense. I didn’t see any banquets, tents there or people from state-owned companies.
Already at the July congress I said that when it comes to personnel matters there should be one underlying criteria: competence and honesty, this was the announcement of changes.
PAP: Do you regret certain nominations? For example Dawid Jackiewicz as Treasury Minister?
He who does nothing makes no mistakes. There were certain misunderstandings, but they were difficult to predict because out of all the candidates, Minister Jackiewicz was the most prepared. At this point in time I do not want to fully evaluate the role of Minister Jackiewicz.
I accepted this principle, and the prime minister endorsed it, that the minister is responsible for the entirety, even if it is not his direct fault. This is not always the case here, but it is almost always the case in the West. This is this type of dismissal, and at this moment I’m not going to go into further detail about what happened because the issue is being looked into.
PAP: Minister Henryk Kowalczyk has announced several dozen dismissals in state-owned companies.
No doubt there will be dismissals where unjustified or bad decisions were made. We will be very decisive. Not all companies wanted to provide material to the CBA, there are problems, this needs to be understood, it’s like ploughing in heavy soil. There have been plenty of such obstacles, the state was brought into an even more severe crisis than this one, one that lasted without interruption since 1989, and in fact even earlier.
A law abiding state can only function when there is a certain balance of power in the country. We are working towards a situation where forces in society are equal; what is also needed here are very far-reaching changes in the judiciary.
PAP: What kind of changes?
We will strive towards making reforms. I am not saying that there are no judges, and many of them at that, who carry out their duties as they should, but this all requires change. And as a result of the fact that many judges display a certain nonchalance towards society and towards citizens, and when a social group is out of control then pathological processes must occur.
Claiming that judges are dissected from society is laughable, they are linked in various ways, and these local links often make the courts the authority of various types of local systems, small systems on the side, and often local dictatorships, because there is a whole range of them in Poland. And we want to break them up.
Without decent courts one cannot create a properly functioning state. This is perfectly illustrated by the issue of re-privatization.
PAP: And is PiS proposing its own solutions regarding the issue of reprivatisation?
The Ministry of Justice created such a proposal, I familiarized myself with it. The question is whether this project is sufficiently well embedded in the whole legal system. In any case, the government is working on the case.
PAP: Who is likely to be the PiS candidate for the president of Warsaw? When will this decision be made?
At the moment a decision hasn’t been made who the candidate will be, nor do we know when the Warsaw elections will take place. We don’t know how Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz’s reprivatisation scandal will pan out. We are not doing anything to accelerate these elections.
After all, it would easy for us to collect signatures to hold a referendum regarding the dismissal of the president of Warsaw. Experience has shown us how one referendum did not succeed, due to a low turnout. We are seeing how the situation will develop.
At this moment, member of parliament Jacek Sasin is working on the reprivatisation issue. He is definitely someone that needs to be taken very seriously into consideration, but I repeat, no final decision has been made.
PAP: How will the issue of electing a new president of the Constitutional Tribunal be resolved after the term of Chairman Andrew Rzepliński expires?
What he has been saying recently confirms how right we are, it confirms how the Constitutional Tribunal really isn’t what it should be. We want to conclude this dispute with the honest selection of candidates for the chairmanship of the Tribunal, in our opinion there should be three of them, because the president should have a real choice.
This should be a choice between various options, and not a situation in which the president in reality doesn’t have much of a choice. In the current legislation there are regulations referring to the nomination of the chairman, the implementation of which would give the president a choice. This would mean the crisis would be resolved.
In the Constitutional Tribunal there is an idea for a rule which in effect would be contra legem (in violation of the law) and in a obvious way will continue the path of unlawful behaviour.
I hope that the next chairman will make the Tribunal function normally, in its full composition. We need to get out of this mess, but this is all the doing of the chairman and everyone who works with him, it is not our doing.
PAP: You have spoken many times about the need to change electoral law in Poland. What type of changes will PiS be suggesting?
We have a paradoxical system in which those who are chosen organize the elections. This shouldn’t be the case. We need to break with the past, from an organizational perspective our electoral system is simply a continuation of apparent elections under Communism, until recently in terms of personnel as well. Now this has changed, but not completely. Kazimierza Czaplicki was replaced as the head of the National Election Office (KBW) by Beata Tokaj, who was previously his deputy.
There is also the matter of adjusting electoral geography to the present distribution of residents-citizens in the country and the liquidation of the consequences of the decision to create electoral constituencies that were convenient for the previous ruling majority, yet have no justification. An example is the Senate district in the Podlaskie region, clearly carved out for Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz.
Full transparency is needed. Starting with transparent ballot boxes and the possibility of streaming transmissions from any polling station through the Internet, especially during the counting of votes. Tough rules are needed regarding how votes are counted.
Of course one needs to settle the matter of storing election materials, especially those stored over a long time. One can consider a model where the main political parties delegate their candidates for individual electoral bodies, whereby we have shared control of the process.
PAP: When can we expect such a project to take shape?
I talked to Minister Grzegorz Schreiber about this. We will begin intense work shortly. It is a matter of several months. No doubt we will have a lot of work on this issue awaiting us in the Sejm.
PAP: Referring back to Minister Schreiber, who is responsible for relations with parliament within the Chancellery of the Prime Minister of Poland. Until now this function was held by the Deputy Chairman of PiS, Adam Lipinski, who has started a new role as a Plenipotentiary for Equal Treament. Is this the right function for such a politician?
I have heard various opinions being voiced, that this was some sort of joke or punishment. No, this is not the case. The prime minister came to the conclusion that a change of plenipotentiary is needed. She then thought of Adam Lipinski. This is not meant to weaken his position. What we want to do here is to improve information flow on legislative work between the club and the government.
PAP: In a corridor discussion with journalists in the Sejm you said that you do not want to debate with the President of the European Council Donald Tusk and, I quote, “nor about him becoming a key witness - small or large, or consent to be punished." Is Donald Tusk meant to become a key witness? Regarding what issue? What should he be punished for?
This was a bit of a joke. I don’t like when journalists ambush me in the corridors and that is what I said. One cannot rule out charges against Donald Tusk in various issues. The issue of Smolensk is mentioned a lot but there are other cases as well. I don’t know what his role in the Amber Gold affair was, or in the privatization of Ciech. There are many issues that need to be clarified. Someone like Donald Tusk should no longer be President of the European Council. I am deeply convinced that this is not good for the European Union.
PAP: So there definitely won’t be support from the government for Donad Tusk to have a second term?
“Definitely” is a very dangerous word in politics.
PAP: We’ve just had another monthly ceremony commemorating the Smolensk disaster. You have talked many times about the actions of the previous leadership, which could have led to this tragedy. Do you have anything that could prove this thesis? Do you agree with Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski that there was a scheme being orchestrated against President Lech Kaczynski?
According to the information I have received, some documents regarding this issue have been found. But this information is not complete, I don’t have full access to all the information acquired in the course of the investigation. The fact that various phone conversations on the preparation of the visit were part of a scheme, and the decision (to separate the visits of President Kaczynski and Prime Minister Tusk) was taken much earlier, seems to be completely proven.
This is politically and morally, and perhaps even legally and criminally, a very serious charge. But there is also the issue of Deputy Ambassador Piotr Marciniak making a request, in compliance with international law, to the Russian authorities about the extraterritoriality of the area where the disaster occurred.
This was a routine move, yet Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski withdrew from this decision. This is a very serious matter. It is hard to believe that this decision was made without the knowledge and consent of Prime Minister Donald Tusk. There are a lot of things that we did not know until now.
PAP: PO wants to liquidate the IPN and CBA. What do you make of these demands?
On a tactical level, these proposals indicate that there is a lot of confusion within the Civic Platform. They are clearly trying to win over the post-Communist electorate, they are trying to take over the demands made by this group. At the same time, this shows that the order of Poland’s Third Republic, defending by Civic Platform, was based on a lie, cutting citizens off from the truth, and providing consent for abuse. We have always said this and now it is clear for everyone to see. It is sad, but that is how things are.
PAP: Will there be a new version of the sales tax after the European Commissioned questioned some of its elements?
I know one thing – the tax needs to be in place and something didn’t work out here, when it comes to the preparations. We have to work on this.
I see no reason why the business done by hypermarkets and large retail chains should not be taxed.
PAP: What do you see as the government’s most urgent tasks within the economic sphere?
No doubt launching the Morawiecki Plan. Launching financial foundations through the consolidation of funds to stimulate investment.
PAP: The Deputy Prime Minister has been given one year for the plan to produce its first, measurable results.
After one year we will be able to answer questions on whether everything is working or not. This is a difficult but necessary Polish experiment. We will need to evaluate it. The Minister has taken on a lot of things, not because he did not want to, but because he wanted to. The Deputy Prime Minister is very ambitious and energetic.
PAP: How do you assess the progress made regarding the polonisation of the banking sector? Will this process be accelerated?
Efforts, and serious ones at that, in this area continue to be made. When it comes to repolonisation, one needs to remember that this is not a question of nationalization, but rather of purchase. When one needs to buy something, the question of price emerges. It's a very difficult case.
PAP: PiS has spoken about the need to seal the tax system. The additional revenues were to act as a “flywheel” of the economy. Is the process of sealing the tax system taking place fast enough?
We have an increase in tax revenue, but it could have been better. This is the direction that we will sustain. Annual losses reach many tens of billions of zloty. Achieving efficiency, even at the level of 50 per cent, would help tackle our budget problems.
PAP: From Poland’s perspective, who would make a better president – Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton?
It would be imprudent of me to speak about this right now. Every president of the United States is an important partner for us. The United States is currently the only full-size, democratic power. Relations with the Americans are important to us, they could be easier or more difficult. I am waiting for the election results, we will see how it goes.
PAP: The next term of the European Parliament won’t contain Great Britain’s Conservatives. Does PiS know which faction it will belong to? Do you think that PiS politicians will be together with the Christain Democrats or in the EPP?
Politicians need to have a bit of imagination. I cannot imagine our participation in the Greens or Socialists faction. But I could imagine that PiS would work together with the EPP. We are currently also looking at other options.
PAP: When will Poland propose treaty changes in the EU? When and what type of changes?
The question is whether the Union in its present form, with its terrible bureaucracy and institutionalized means of challenging the nation state, is able to survive. I think not. I support the EU. But it must be adapted to the real structure of Europe, its wealth. It can become a superpower, but not through the federalisation of Europe, rather through a different mechanism.
We have our proposals. Various discussions on this subject are taking place, at different levels, with various partners, including private influential people in Europe. One has to believe that it will succeed.
The Union today is already different than it was before. Recently, there was no question of any changes, and now this issue is being raised from various directions.
Interviewed by: Tomasz Grodecki i Agata Jabłońska-Andrzejczuk (PAP)