Poland is a predominantly Catholic country and Catholicism has long been an important part of national identity. The Polish Pope John Paul II (1978–2005) played an important role in the disintegration of communism in Eastern Europe.
As early as the 9th century, the Poles were Christianized by Catholic missionaries from Bohemia in the present Czech Republic. Catholicism was significantly strengthened during the counter-Reformation in the 17th century, when Gustav Vasa’s descendant, Zygmunt III Waza (Sigismund Vasa), sat on the Polish throne.
The Catholic faith merged with the national identity during the divisions of Poland in the 19th century, when the country was no longer on the political map of Europe. The church retained a relatively strong position during the Second World War and in the 1950s and 1960s, when the Communist Party repeatedly tried to break the power of the church and subject it to state control.
But these attempts failed. The church retained its independence and its strong position in society was further strengthened, especially since the Polish cardinal Karol Wojtyła was elected pope in 1978 (John Paul II, 1978–2005). He played an important role in the fall of the Communist Empire in Eastern Europe, and the many visits to his home country, especially the first visit to the Pope in the summer of 1979, were of great importance for the trade union and democracy movement Solidarity that arose the following year.
The moral authority of the church, mainly as a result of its opposition to the communist regime, began to be questioned after 1989. The main reason for this was that the church used its contacts with leading politicians, including President Lech Wałęsa (1990-1955), for the purpose to influence political decisions. In 1993, the church managed to enforce an abortion ban (called “a compromise” because there are exceptions) despite the fact that a majority of Poles opposed it. The result was that the church’s influence slowly began to weaken. Nowadays, only 40 percent of the population participates in the mandatory Sunday Mass.
Even in Poland, there are now also revelations about abuse that church representatives have made (see Calendar).
The largest religious minorities are uni (Catholic hierarchy, Orthodox rites), Orthodox Christians, Protestants, Jews and Muslims. Tatars, who have lived in the area for centuries, are Sunni Muslims. There are also Muslims who immigrated to Poland in recent years, but the group is small.
- Countryaah: Population statistics for 2020 and next 30 years in Poland, covering demographics, population graphs, and official data for growth rates, population density, and death rates.
Other rounds of elections are required in the presidential election
The incumbent President Andrzej Duda receives the most votes in the presidential election, but not enough to win in the first round. He will thus face Liberal Mayor Liberal Rafał Trzaskowski in a new round of elections on July 12. Duda wins just over 43.5 percent of the vote, compared to just over 30 percent for Trzaskowski. Independent Rafał Hołownia receives almost 14 percent of the vote. None of the other eight candidates comes up in 10 percent. The turnout is just under 65 percent. After the election, Duda, who represents the ruling party Law and Justice (PiS), describes, itself as a guarantor for socially conservative values to prevail in Poland. He opposes, among other things, that gay couples should be allowed to adopt children. It is seen as an attempt to reach the almost 7 percent of voters who have voted for Krzysztof Bosak, candidate for the right-wing Confederacy. Trzaskowski, from the Citizens’ Platform (PO), for his part, has promised to try to bridge the gap between Poland and the EU.
Coronavirus closes mines
Twelve mines in southwestern Poland are closed for three weeks after the spread of the sars-slew-2 virus has been found among miners and their relatives. The country’s energy production is not expected to be affected by the mine closure, as Poland has both domestic and imported coal in stock. Poland imposed its first restrictions on the pandemic in March (see March 24). In recent weeks, society has been opened up, with, among other things, abolished masking, provided that physical distance is maintained. More than 1,150 deaths have been confirmed since the infection reached Poland.
June 28 presidential election
The first round of the presidential election will be held on June 28, the Sejm’s president Elżbieta Witek announced. A possible second round will take place on July 12. New voting rules have been adopted by Parliament the day before, and signed by President Duda. Both voting in polling stations and postal voting should be possible. Andrzej Duda is seeking re-election, but his election victory has lately looked more uncertain. The support is growing according to opinion polls for liberal challenger Rafał Trzaskowski.
New HD manager with ties to PiS
Małgorzata Manowska becomes chairman of the Supreme Court. President Duda appoints her even though she is not the candidate who has the support of most HD judges. Manowska was Deputy Minister of Justice the last time Poland was ruled by the conservative party PiS. In HD, she succeeds retired Małgorzata Gersdorf, who was critical of the Conservative government’s overthrow of the judiciary.
Liberals change presidential candidate
15th of May
Małgorzata Kidawa-Błońska, Deputy Speaker of Parliament, resigns as a candidate for president. Prior to the scheduled election date of May 10, she put her campaign on ice, urged electoral boycotts and stressed that it would be risky to hold elections during a pandemic. Her Liberal Party The Citizens’ Platform, which is the leading opposition force, instead rallies behind Warsaw’s mayor Rafał Trzaskowski as presidential candidate. A new election date has not been decided, but the Government Party Law and Justice wants it to take place in the middle of summer (see May 6). President Duda’s term expires in early August.
Poland wants to see more support for the farmers
In the difficult negotiations on the EU’s forthcoming long-term budget for 2021-2027, Poland calls on the EU to increase its support for agriculture. The proposal is presented by Prime Minister Morawiecki in letters to the Heads of Government of other EU countries and to the President of the European Commission. Agricultural policy is one of the major items in the EU budget, also important for other large agricultural countries such as France and Spain. However, in light of Britain’s exit from the Union, other countries would rather reduce the aid. Now, Morawiecki refers to the corona pandemic that endangers agricultural production.
The presidential election is postponed
The government parties agree that the presidential election should not be conducted as planned on May 10 (see April 15). The new date is not announced immediately, but it should be done as soon as possible, is the message. Opposition parties and critical citizens point out that the agreement of the government parties puts Poland in a legal gray zone because the decision is not made and announced in accordance with the law. The election shall, because of the risk of spreading coronavirus, be made by postal vote only. In Poland, the pandemic has so far claimed more than 700 lives, according to the compilation made by Johns Hopkins University in the United States.
Chop competition will be moved to 2021
A great international competition for young pianists, named after the Polish-born Chopin, usually becomes the offspring of solid music careers. It takes place every five years and would have been held in the fall. But the competition is now being moved to the fall of 2021 because of the corona pandemic, organizers announce.
New EU action against Polish legal reforms
The European Commission is launching yet another legal process against Poland as a result of the changes in the judicial system implemented by the country’s government, this time a law that came into force in February 2020 (see mainly 17 January and 23 January). The Commission, which is concerned about the independence of the judiciary and the application of justice in Poland, points out, among other things, that the content of judgments risks being seen as disciplinary wrongdoing by judges. Judges must also disclose their activities outside of working hours, a requirement that the European Commission sees as a violation of the individual’s freedom. The Polish government must respond to today’s formal notification within two weeks. This is the fourth time the EU Commission has launched a similar procedure against Poland. In two cases so far (which apply to general courts and the Supreme Court), the EU court has sentenced Poland, in the third case (which concerns the punishment of judges), the final judgment has not yet fallen. The Commission has also (2017) activated Article 7 of the EU’s Lisbon Treaty, a measure that could lead to a Member State losing its voting rights in the EU.
Fire in national park
Fire breaks out in the Biebrza National Park, and the fire spreads so that after a few days it covers 6,000 hectares, a tenth of the area. In Biebrza there are wetlands and a variety of bird and animal species, including beaver and wolf. After a snowy winter, spring has brought drought, which has already in itself put a strain on nature, but Poland’s Ministry of Environment believes that someone has also burned grass despite it is forbidden.
Disputed proposals in Parliament
A controversial proposal to tighten the already strict abortion law is referred in Parliament to committee preparation. The proposal is a citizen initiative with 800 | 000 signatures. Women’s organizations have accused the ruling party PiS of pushing the proposal in the shadow of the rules that prevail when limiting coronary disease; banning crowds prevents demonstrations. PiS has previously withdrawn a similar abortion proposal when it raised protests (see October 6, 2016). Another disputed proposal is now passed on to committees. That proposal would prevent all sexual education in Polish schools. Those who want to ban sexual education argue that a ban would protect children from abuse.
Suggestion: Give the President more time
President Andrzej Duda can have his term extended from five to seven years. In that case, he could remain in his post until 2022. The proposal comes from the government party PiS and its coalition partner PJG, which refers to the special needs that arose from the covid-19 pandemic. If Parliament’s lower house, the Sejm, agreed to extend the term, they propose that the imminent presidential election on May 10 (with only postal vote) be suspended. The proposal is a result of PJG leader Jarosław Gowin opposing holding elections during the pandemic. Regardless of whether Duda is re-elected or gets his presidency extended, it is seen as increasing the Conservative government’s ability to push through other contentious legislative proposals.
The Polish government loses in EU court
The Posh government suffers a new defeat in the European Court of Justice, which annuls the disputed dipsciplin chamber which was established in 2017 and was given the power to punish judges. The Supreme Court of Poland has previously concluded that the Chamber of Discipline is not independent of political power and that it violates EU law (see December 5, 2019), but the House has nevertheless continued to operate. In January, therefore, the European Commission chose to bring the matter to the European Court of Justice, which now (pending a final ruling) gives Poland orders to promptly cease the Chamber’s activities.
New support package for smaller companies
In order to save jobs that could be lost during the corona pandemic, the government announces a second crisis package (see March 18). The new rescue package is valued at 22 billion euros. SMEs should be supported, and most of the support they will not have to repay.
Only postal vote in parliamentary elections
Parliament’s House of Commons decides that Poland’s presidential election will be held as scheduled on May 10, despite the coronavirus pandemic (see March 24). But the election should not be conducted with visits to polling stations but through postal voting. Special ballots are set up for the votes around the country. The decision must also be approved in the Senate (which can only postpone the election, not stop it) and by President Duda. Opposition parties have several objections, including that the incumbent president will benefit from the pandemic preventing election campaigns.
Poland falls to EU court
Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic violated EU law when they refused to accept refugees in 2015, when unusually many refugees applied to Europe. This is what the European Court of Justice has concluded, and the three countries are now being fined. All three countries refused to follow a decision taken by the EU’s Migration and Home Affairs Ministers that the refugees should be distributed among EU member states. The intention was to reduce the pressure on reception in Greece and Italy (see December 7, 2017).
Infection protection rules are tightened in several steps
24th of March
Poland is following Germany in its tracks and tightening its already strict rules against the spread of coronaviruses: public gatherings are limited to two people, worship services and funerals to five. Poland currently has 800 cases of confirmed disease and nine deaths in covid-19. On March 31, the rules are further tightened, for at least two weeks ahead: children and young people under 18 may only leave the home with an adult and only older people may shop in stores between 10 am and 12 pm. would force a decision to postpone the presidential election scheduled for May 10. Sitting President Andrzej Duda is tipped to be re-elected.
State aid package against the corona crisis
The Polish government announces a support package worth € 47 billion to save jobs, companies and businesses threatened by the corona pandemic. According to Prime Minister Morawiecki, the value of the rescue package corresponds to a tenth of the country’s state budget, and the money should not come from the EU. The state will go in with support for people who become unemployed, including small businesses, while companies that lose income can get help with paying loans. The central bank lowers its policy rate to historically low 1.0 percent. President Duda states that deficits in the state budget can be expected.
Closed borders tease the balts
14th of March
Poland closes borders to prevent the spread of the covid-19 viral disease. Citizens of the Baltic states are getting worried because no “human corridor” is being set up to allow car-borne Balts to return home from Western Europe. Instead, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are deploying ships and aircraft to rescue Balts who are stuck at the border between Germany and Poland.
The United States provides the arms deal
4th of March
The US government approves the sale of armor-piercing weapons to Poland. 189 anti-armor robots and 79 fire pipes are included in the order, which is one of several current arms deals between Warsaw and Washington. Poland has also decided to buy 32 F-35 fighter aircraft and Patriot robots, among others (see February 28, 2019). Russia’s annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula Crimea is an important factor behind Poland’s decision to upgrade its defense force.
Presidential election in May
The first round of presidential elections will be held on May 10, the Speaker of Parliament announces. Favorite is sitting President Andrzej Duda. The main candidate of the opposition will be Małgorzata Kidawa-Błońska. If no candidate wins already in the first round, a decisive round will take place on May 24.
Ready for penalty against judge
President Duda signed the disputed law that allows judges who question legal reform to be punished (see January 23). He does this only hours after a visit by French President Macron, who expressed concern that Poland is undermining democracy and the rule of law. That the law now comes into force is deplored both by Poland’s political opposition and by Adam Bodnar, the country’s ombudsman who oversees human rights.
Open conflict between courts
An open-ended power measurement on the new rules for judicial appointments takes place between Poland’s two highest judicial bodies: The Constitutional Court announces that a decision of the Supreme Court on 23 January cannot be applied. In the decision, HD gave the government a broad side: the court rejected the new way of appointing judges introduced by the PiS government party (see March 25, 2019). According to HD, judges appointed under Pi’s new system, so far 500, can not be considered independent: HD fears that their judicial process is impaired by political influence. In the Constitutional Court, which is to monitor that new laws are in accordance with the Constitution, judges appointed with PiS rules dominate. But PiS claims that HD, which oversees lower courts, in turn goes the political opposition’s affairs.
Auschwitz survivors warn of dangers in the present
About 200 Holocaust survivors take part in a memorial ceremony on site, on the day 75 years after the Soviet Red Army reached Auschwitz-Birkenau camp in Oświęcim in eastern Poland, freeing the prisoners who were still alive. The survivors, now aged and tormented by their memories of the cruelty of the Nazis, have traveled from several continents. Together with royalty and political leaders from about 60 countries, they warn of the signs of growing racism and anti-Semitism in the present, both in Europe and in the United States.
The Sejm approves a sworn judging team
The Sejm, the lower house of Parliament, adopts the disputed law that makes it easier to punish judges who oppose the government extending its power over the judiciary. The decision means that the conservatively-dominated House is “running over” the Senate’s decision to stop the law (see January 17). The law comes into force when President Duda signs it. The opposition describes it as a coup d’état, and the Supreme Court has also challenged the law (see December 5, 2019).
Muslim leaders visit Auschwitz
About 60 leaders from Muslim countries visit the Auschwitz Holocaust camp. In that camp alone, about 1.1 million people were murdered by the Nazis during World War II. Most of the victims were Jews. The 2020 visit is organized by an American-Jewish organization, AJC, and the chairman of the Muslim World Federation, which is one of the participants kneeling and praying at the memorial site.
Controversy around Holocaust memory
Before the 75th anniversary of how the prisoners were liberated from the Nazi Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp in Poland in 1945, controversy with today’s Polish government has come to light. Israel pays tribute to the Holocaust victims beginning January 23 at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, which is both a museum and a place to continue collecting data on the millions of people who were murdered. In Poland, which commemorates the 75th anniversary of its anniversary on January 27, a campaign by the Russian side is highlighted that highlights Polish anti-Semitism and involvement in the Holocaust and fades the Soviet Union’s secret pact with Nazi Germany, which was concluded shortly before the outbreak of World War II. It was the Soviet Red Army that, at the end of the war, reached Auschwitz-Birkenau and opened the camp, but since Polish President Andrzej Duda is not allowed to speak to Yad Vashem and to respond to Russian history writing, he has refused to attend the meeting. The President of Lithuania also refrains from participating.
No in the Senate to disputed judiciary
The Senate votes down a controversial bill that would make it easier to punish judges who question the government’s overthrow of the judiciary (see December 19, 2019). The opposition has a tight takeover in the Senate, while the Conservative ruling party Law and Justice (PiS) controls the Sejm, the parliament’s lower house. The proposal now bounces back to the sejm. PiS claims it is corrupt judges the party wants to replace, but from the European point of view there is great concern that the Polish government is circumventing the independence of the judiciary. On January 11, a street protest was held in Warsaw, where lawyers from all over Europe participated to agree with the criticism that the government, in their opinion, is trying to put a donut on the Polish judiciary.
Two well-known names come up against Duda
7 th of January
The parties of the Left Alliance Lewica announce that Robert Biedroń, former mayor of Słupsk and now EU parliamentarian, will be their candidate in the presidential election in May. They justify their decision that Biedroń, who is openly gay, among other things, demands equal pay for women and men and the distinction between church and state. Sitting President Andrzej Duda, who has the backing of the Conservative ruling party Law and Justice, is considered a favorite. Małgorzata Kidawa-Błońska (PO) is one of the opposition candidates attributed to the greatest chances.