Policy statement by Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz - stenographic record


The Sejm, 1 October 2014
 

Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz

Mr President, Mr Speaker, Mr Senate Speaker, Members of Parliament, Ladies and Gentlemen.

Today I am standing in front  of you as the new Prime Minister of the Republic of Poland. It is a great honour and distinction to me. Today in your presence I would like to make a solemn commitment to faithfully serve Poland and Poles, as well as to present the programme of my government. Usually, the change of the government takes place as a result of lost parliamentary elections. Or results from a serious political crisis. It is not the case today. Today, the change of the government results from the great success of our country, i.e. Donald Tusk's appointment as the president of the European Council. Only 25 years ago we dreamt about Poland becoming part of a united Europe. And now Donald Tusk is its president. As a Pole, I am proud of this success. This achievement could not be possible, if it was not for the seven good years of Civic Platform's and Polish Peasants Party's rule. Mr President, all of us wish you every success, all of us. Today I also have a good piece of news for you Donald and for everybody. It is me who is the head of the Polish government, this new government, and I take the whole responsibility for this government. Naturally, if this chamber decides so. Thanking Donald Tusk for the last seven years, I want to emphasise that the Poland's success that we achieved after 1989 has numerous fathers in the political sense of the word. All my predecessors who held the position of the Prime Minister of the Republic of Poland made their contribution, including those who are in this room. It is the essence of democracy that voters change those in power, but voters also elect the opposition, namely those whose duty is to keep an eye on those in power. I am ready for the debate and criticism. I will also not allow any of my ministers to evade the debate, or leave the criticism unanswered. But let's try, let's try to ensure that this debate and criticism does not become some kind of political civil war. There is one Poland, and it belongs to the same extent to those who vote for the government and those who vote for the opposition. Today we are right to be pleased about and appreciate the achievements of the Polish freedom and Polish democracy. But we must not fail to notice that many Poles are dissatisfied with what happens in Poland. They have a feeling that not everything works well. First and foremost, they have little trust in public institutions. It also, and maybe mainly, applies to this chamber. For this reason, I want to say very clearly today – we are not here for ourselves. We are here for Poles. In my opinion, the most important task will be to increase and rebuild  Poles' trust in the government, politics and politicians.  I know it is a very ambitious task, but I believe it is realistic. The first step to complete it is to talk to people continuously, and to listen intently to their problems. I am a doctor. It is a special mission and vocation. It includes involvement, respect and willingness to help each person. A doctor does not ask about opinions and beliefs. This is how I understand my role. Unfortunately, today Poles I talked to, and I talk to people often, tell me one thing: the debate in this chamber and outside it does not concern problems of common people. Politicians of all parties have turned back from people. There is a silent majority in Poland which is fed up with watching debates and quarrels which, in fact, do not concern them at all. This majority is silent, because it has an impression that nobody listens to them. These are people who, irrespective of their political affiliations and the world view, build their and their families' each ordinary day with hard everyday work. I will be the prime minister who serves also this silent majority. Poles do not want a revolution, but each of them waits for a change. It is also this silent majority that has built Poland's success, Poland's success of the recent years. It is also thanks to this silent majority, at the cost of its sacrifice and hard work, that Poland has changed for better, that the face of our cities but also of the Polish countryside has changed, that Poles are better educated and more prosperous, that according to all statistics we are able to outpace countries which were richer than us only a few years ago. Today I want to thank for their everyday work, and I want to promise that all of my decisions and actions of my new government will not be taken on the basis of political calculations, but will have one goal: broadly understood safety of Polish families. No political success, no praise in media will give me more satisfaction than achievement of this goal. If I am talking about the need for a change, I also want to point out that there is something which would help me achieve this very much, and something we could do right now. Something which requires a manly decision and rejection of bad emotions. I like to call a spade a spade. We all know that Jarosław Kaczyński's personal aversion to Donald Tusk has been hanging over the Polish political life for years. I do not want to judge that. The only thing I know is that Donald Tusk, thanks to the great success, is leaving for Brussels, where he will be the President of Europe. He will not take part in the domestic politics. Maybe the time has come. I will say more, it is high time to overcome this personal resentment. I appeal to Mr Jarosław Kaczyński: Mr President, let's lift this curse of hatred from Poland.

Ladies and Gentlemen. In the new European Union's financial perspective we have received over PLN 400 billion for the development of Poland in the years 2014-2020. This is the record amount in Europe's history. If we add the amount we received in the previous perspective, we can confidently say that we have been given a much bigger opportunity than the one given to the Western Europe after the World War II as part of the Marshall Plan. If I am standing in front of you today to present this main goal I am setting myself as the Prime Ministers of the Republic of Poland, then the goal is Poland's prosperity. I am aware of the fact that the next parliamentary election will take place in a year, but the vision for Poland I am going to present is a long-term plan. I know that in order to implement the plan, I have to gain Poles' trust. What will never be the measure of success for me is any statistics or opinion polls, but only the feeling of prosperity and safety at each Polish home.

Ladies and Gentlemen. Rebuilding the citizens' trust also requires us to achieve cross-party agreement on issues which today constitute Poland's national interest, namely the foreign and defence policy. Together we need to take care of safety and respect for Poland in Europe, but also in the world. It requires an in-depth debate in this chamber, including the opposition, whose support will be crucial, which is why by the end of October the head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will present information about the foreign policy. Each  foreign policy must be based on a system of values. These values are only strong as the willingness and determination to defend them. The events in Ukraine make us well aware today of the importance of democratic countries' solidarity in the face of the two plagues of the contemporary world: authoritarianism and chaos. At the same time, the Ukrainian crisis demonstrates how important it is that we do not have to cope with this challenge on our own, as the European Union and NATO stand behind us. My government's task will be to ensure unity and solidarity of the democratic camp. Our crucial national interest is to prevent splitting the West's position, of which we are a part, but what is equally important is to prevent Poland from becoming solitary as a result of setting ourselves unrealistic goals. For this reason, my government's aim will be to pursue a pragmatic policy towards what is happening in Ukraine. What is crucial for Poland and its citizens is that the fighting in Ukraine stops and the Ukrainian state is consolidated. We hope that the recent talks on the ceasefire will bring results. It does not mean, and I want to emphasise it as strongly s possible, that we agree for annexation of the territory of the sovereign Ukrainian state, or approve of European borders being changed by force. It is the matter of the fundamental principles of the world to which we belong. We support the pro-European course of Ukraine's development, but we will not replace Ukrainians on whom the burden of reforming their country rests. I will become involved in supporting the pro-freedom actions taken by Ukrainians in all fields. We want to help Ukraine in the transformation of its economy, political system, army and politics.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Members of Parliament, one of the most important goals of my government will be  further strengthening of our position in the European Union. Thanks to the predictable and credible policy of recent years Poland finally joined European first league and began to discover the role that is corresponding to its potential and aspirations. Our country will actively work, so that the European Union applies the idea of energy solidarity. Therefore, we must actively promote the formation of energy union, proposed by my predecessor, and today supported by the vast majority of European leaders. We cannot agree with a situation in which Poland and other countries in the region are completely at the mercy of the of external gas suppliers who make the gas supplies and prices dependant on the current political objectives. My government will therefore try to convince the European Union to effectively cut any monopolistic practices and price manipulations. We know how important it is to protect the environment. A draft of new greenhouse gas reduction targets will be discussed at the October meeting of the European Council.  My government will not agree to provisions that would mean additional costs to our economy and higher prices of energy for consumers. Ladies and Gentlemen, Members of Parliament,  our country will earnestly strive for an early signing of a free trade and investment agreement between the European Union and the United States. This agreement will create the world's largest free trade zone and will have a huge impact on the good economic climate, and thus will deepen political relations between Europe and America. In the view of what is happening in Ukraine, closer relations with the United States become even more important, this is why my government will make every effort to ensure that the United States increase its military presence in Poland.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Members of Parliament, Polish families, while talking at the table, for several months now, wonder whether our country is safe. Our tragic history makes such questions legitimate, especially now when a conflict that is the biggest in decades takes place near our borders. My government will ensure the security of Poland and Polish people. In pursuing this goal we will increase defence spending to 2% of GDP from 2016, this will provide additional 800 million PLN for modern equipment for the Polish Army in 2016, and correspondingly more in subsequent years. By modernizing our army we will build the innovative potential of the Polish defence industry that is undergoing a consolidation process within the Polish Armaments Group. The foundation of our defence are the soldiers who enjoy the support of society, performing a responsible and difficult service. My government will take care of their position. From the beginning of 2015 we will allocate additional 39 million PLN for the soldiers, awarding a bonus for  a longer period of service of officers and non-commissioned officers. We will also remember about the veterans who risked their lives and health in the service for the country. Here in the hall there is Lieutenant Colonel Leszek Stępień, a veteran of Afghanistan who, seriously wounded, with his own health has paid for the service for the country. Lieutenant Colonel, on behalf of all Poles, thank you very much. In December this year, I will open the Centre of Veterans of Missions Outside of the Country as a practical expression of respect of the State for its soldiers. Ukrainian conflict clearly shows that, in the new type of war, it is crucial to strengthen the Polish military potential, but also to protect the borders and cooperating law enforcement services, the Police and Border Guard, with the armed forces. In an emergency situation an integration of all instruments in the hands of the State is necessary. These proposals are part of a larger plan of strengthening the security of our country. I will present this plan in November. Mr. President, I know I can count on your support. I appeal to all the parliamentary forces for a full cooperation and support in the issues of our homeland’s security.  These are the most important issues. This issues should not be subject of political fights. Faced with threats, Poles have always shown unity and full determination to defend its independence. I hope that this will remain the case also today.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Members of Parliament, taking care of a healthy economy and sound public finances is an important part of building the safety of Polish people. My government will consistently strive to further stabilize the public finances, while trying to maintain a balance between ensuring the economic growth and limiting the expenditures. I know that one of the most important questions the Poland will face in the coming years is a question of the timing of entering the euro zone. But before we answer that question, we should ask ourselves about something else. How does the euro zone look like today and what direction will it go? We have to remember that the euro zone has recently undergone the greatest crisis in its history. We want it to come out of this crisis stronger, but Poland, as well as the euro zone countries, have a homework do be done in the coming years. Regardless of the new intentions of adopting a common currency, we need to meet all the criteria, because it is inherently good for the Polish economy, and the euro zone must implement measures that will protect it against further crises. Strengthened euro zone and a stable Polish economy are the two criteria that best define the moment of the adoption of the euro. Stable and secure public finances are just half the battle. Poland, however, can achieve more. It can achieve more, because its citizens have in them the energy reserves incomparable with any other country.

Poles are still hungry for success. The state must create conditions for them to achieve it. We cannot create regulations with the assumption that everyone will want to break or evade them. Those who break the regulations must be punished, but the spirit of the law must, first of all, serve the vast majority of honest people. I know this is probably the most ambitious task of all that I undertake. There is no one action that can be done, because it cannot be done with one action. A titanic work of the entire government is needed in order to change it. We need to implement the “99% rule”, that means that we design the whole of our law in the area of economic freedom thinking about those ninety-nine percent of honest people, and not the 1% of dodgers. We need to find a wide balance in the tax policy. On the one hand, I expect that the tax system does not punish the Poles for their resourcefulness, diligence and efficiency. On the other it should help those who need it most. Therefore, I oblige the Minister of Finance to present the draft law on the new tax ordinance early next year, and the Minister of Economy to present the draft law on economic activity. What was planned to be achieved in three years, this government will do in 12 months. Next year we will introduce substantive facilities for taxpayers. The e-taxes system, thanks to which everyone will have an easy and safe access to the taxpayer account, and changes in tax administration. The taxpayer will be able to handle the matters in any office; in a service centre, an employee of a tax office will serve the citizens not only in matters relating to taxes, but also to other institutions, for example social insurance institution, customs service or local government. For the first 18 months of business the micro entrepreneurs will be able to get help from a taxpayer assistant . Specialized tax offices will focus exclusively on servicing the largest companies that build the economic potential of the country. We will increase the throughput of out taxation helpline and build an online Tax Administration Knowledge Base. With support from National Tax Information experts, taxpayers will receive the same consistent information regardless of which Tax Office they turn to with their inquiries. The Poles have been waiting for many years for a Construction Code to simplify the procedures related to the construction of single-family houses, among others. I’m committing the Minister of Infrastructure and Development to markedly speed-up work on this regulation so that it is provided to the Parliament at the beginning of the next year. A huge problem for many Polish companies, which adversely affects the labour market, is lack of access to a quick and easy investment credit. That is why Bank Gospodarstwa Krajowego will increase the funds set aside for Polish companies  to 25 billion zlotys. We will support not only the investment of Polish companies at home, but also their international business. In addition, the de minimis programme, or loan guarantees for micro and small enterprises, will be expanded to include support for companies to export their products. We will extent that programme until 2016. Every new job, every person who started employment, is for me a real indicator of the prosperity and security of Polish families.

The difficult geopolitical situation related to the conflict in the East has hit hard Polish enterprises. The Russian embargo imposed on Polish products has undermined the stability of our companies and the people employed by them. That is why we are preparing a special Crisis Response Act by which companies who have suffered loss due to the embargo will be able to receive subsidies to wages and salaries or personnel training, or will be refunded the Social Security premiums paid. The draft Act will include a provision to use for this purpose up to 500 million zlotys from the Employee Guaranteed Benefits Fund. The Russian embargo on Polish food has affected many farmers. We have the right to expect the European Union to support Polish rural areas in this regard in proportion to the loss we have suffered. I want to emphasise, clearly and emphatically – the European Commission proposals so far are unsatisfactory. We expect the EU Agriculture Commissioner to reach out to Polish expectations. At the same time, by the end of the year we will establish a farming income stabilisation fund, which is very important due to more and more frequent cases of untimely payment to farmers for the produce they supply or dramatic drops in purchase prices. The fund will be established by withholding 0.2% of the value of the produce sold.

Dear Members, coal in Poland has had strategic importance. One of the first decisions I made has been to speed-up work on legislation to wisely combine three principal objectives of Poland’s energy security. First, we have to protect Polish mining against unfair competition. Second, I will not rest until I am assured that this sector becomes profitable at last. This objective can be achieved through upgrades and restructuring. Third, I cannot ignore the security of every single family in Poland. Polish homes have to be provided with heat, and the cost of energy should not ruin family budgets. The draft legislation, put on a fast track in the Parliament, provides for the licensing of sale, defines coal quality requirements, and proposes changes to the Public Procurement Law to prefer products originating from the Community. We will also support the development of advanced coal technologies. The time saved thanks to implementing these regulations will be used for reducing the cost of operation of coal mines so that Polish coal could compete in the market.

Dear Members, the idea of Solidarity is one of the most beautiful ideas Poland has given to the world. We have to define this solidarity anew in every situation, in every generation, at all times. Today I would like to tell you about the solidarity of generations Poland needs in the 21st century. The younger generations cannot be indifferent to the fortunes of the older generations, and the other way round. Secure future of Poland means that we have to face the challenge of demographic crisis. Giving birth to and having a child must enjoy particular support from the State. That is why my Government will set aside extra funds for building nurseries and kindergartens. In 2015, we will increase spending on the construction of nurseries from 50 million to 100 million. And in 2015-2020, with the money from the European Social Fund and a special system of CIT deductions, we will support the establishment of on-site corporate nurseries and kindergartens. More than 2 billion zlotys will be set aside for that purpose. We want that since 2016 parental leaves can be used by all parents who have had no such opportunity before. This includes unemployed parents working on a contract basis, students and farmers. They will receive parental benefits for 12 months since childbirth. This period will be extended as appropriate when twins, triplets and more children are born. The benefit will be about 1000 zlotys. The government family policy should encourage families to work instead of discouraging them from working. A situation where they shun work when this would mean lost benefits from the State is unacceptable. Today, when parents cross an income threshold by even a single zloty, they lose the entire benefit. Now we put forward a simple rule. A zloty for a zloty. This means that, instead of depriving parents of the entire benefit, we will only reduce it by the amount by which they have exceeded the threshold. This will encourage them to seek employment and leave the grey economy. This solution will become effective since 2016.

Dear members, school is the place where our children spend most of their time while not at home. Schools not only educate, abut also shape habits, including food habits. The health and safety of our children is an investment in the future of our nation. Obesity among the youngest children is a huge problem emphasised by doctors and dietitians.  In connection with this threat, we will speed-up introducing regulations removing so-called “junk food” from primary, middle and secondary schools already since 1 September 2015. Every free nation debates issues of government interference with the lives of private citizens. How to strike the balance between what is necessary for people to feel safe and their natural need for freedom? I would like to stress that this challenge faced by every single democratic nation is very important, but there is one area where this balance is worth shifting. This is physical safety of our children. Therefore, I would like that local governments work with parents to decide on the extent of monitoring in schools. We will provide funding support to this project at 50% of the cost of purchase of monitoring kit. The remaining 50% will be provided by local governments. I would like such programme to operate since the beginning of 2016.

Ms Minister, I’m talking now to the Minister of Education. Thank you that you were able to solve a problem that could not be solved for so many years. This is the problem of expensive textbooks. Your determination and talents were necessary to provide Polish pupils with good and free textbooks. The income status must never be a barrier to educational opportunities. We are all equal. Our children are equal and have the same right to a bright future, good education, good job. Next year we will have a free textbook for the second and fourth grades of primary schools and for the first grade of middle schools. All grades of primary and middle schools will be provided with free textbooks and workbooks by 2017.

Dear Members, many young people I have talked to signalled a significant problem they face when entering labour market just after graduating from university. The expectations of employers towards young alumni very frequently relate to their practical professional experience. I would like public administration to help to solve this problem and therefore I will propose to establish a system of traineeships for students at public administration offices. This will enable students to gain practice, and they will leave universities with not only more knowledge, but also with hands-on experience. It’s great when young people from Poland obtain an opportunity to study abroad. But it is very bad if he or she stays abroad, and his or her talents and knowledge are not tapped for the benefit of this country. From 2016 onwards, my Government will propose to the brightest young Poles to be able to study at the best universities abroad, and this opportunity will be funded by the Polish government. On one condition, however. Every such young person will have to work in Poland for at least five years after leaving the university. I would like to make a commitment that we will support the development of Polish science. We will increase its funding to 2% of GDP by 2020. While mentioning the success of higher education in the free Poland, I regret to say that too little attention was paid in recent years to the occupational and professional training system. Occupational and professional schools adapted to the requirement of the labour market will ensure that there is no shortage of specialists in the Polish economy. This is why the Minister of Education will start implementing a programme to restore occupational and professional education in collaboration with enterprises, thanks to which young people will be able to gain solid general education, specific skills, but it will be also easier for them to find work after graduating.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I am proud that the concern for elderly persons, their health and safety, plays such an important role in the Polish tradition. Today, many of those who are busy with their professional lives are worried about their parents and grandparents. Everyday concerns, work – they often prevent them from devoting as much time to their elderly relatives as they would like to. My plan is to introduce to Poland the concept of day-care institutions, well-known in developed western countries, where seniors would receive medical care, interesting offer for spending their free time and would find a sense of security. We can finance the establishment of such institutions with the European funds. The costs of stay of an elderly person in such place would be covered in one third by the state budget, in one third by the local government and in one third by private persons – elderly persons themselves or their guardians. Here, I would like to maintain the promise made to seniors in this very room by my predecessor, Prime Minister Donald Tusk, saying that the government will carry out the retirement pensions valorisation. In 2015, we will assign 3.8 billion zlotys to this goal. Thinking about the elderly, we also plan to establish the Institute of Geriatrics, being a specialised centre of treatment and care for elderly persons. Establishment of such a special institution will allow us to educate and train larger number of geriatric physicians, which Poland dramatically lacks today.

Ladies and Gentlemen Deputies, the main task of the Minister of Health in 2015 will be to implement the queue and oncology packages in a way ensuring the safety of the patients. We have to realise one thing – shortening of queues in hospitals and outpatients’ clinics will be feasible only when the access to physicians will be easier, when there will be more of such specialists. We have a solution and we found additional funds in the state budget for that goal. Starting with 2015, we will finance medical specialisations as part of the medical residency programmes – for all students having graduated from medical universities in the years 2012-2015. Today, there are 3.5 thousand of them. Thus, we will provide Polish hospitals and outpatients’ clinics with young and talented resident doctors, what will shorten the time of waiting for medical visits. This solution may also contribute to the return of dentist surgeries to schools. Today, local governments do not have funds for employing dental surgeons. Financing of the resident doctors’ remuneration with the state budget will solve this problem. Thus, having doctors to service the surgeries, local governments will be able to furnish them using the EU funds.

Ladies and Gentlemen, in our country money too often happen to be a barrier preventing citizens from using services of a good lawyer. My government will propose the “Law for all” (Prawo dla każdego) programme, modelled on American solutions, which, as a result of cooperation between the government, the local government and the non-governmental organisations, will guarantee free access to legal advice on the local level.

Ladies and Gentlemen Deputies, the most visible example of the Poland’s success in the recent years are huge infrastructural investments. They are changing the image of our country, as well as our lives, improving our comfort and safety. In 2014, we will commission over 160 kilometres of expressways and we will sign contracts for construction of another 300 kilometres. In the weeks to come, the S8 expressway will be open between Wrocław and Sieradz. Until the end of 2015, we will have commissioned 250 kilometres of expressways and signed contracts for construction of another five hundred kilometres. In the years 2014-2020, we will build 1770 kilometres of motorways and expressways, as well as 35 ring roads in Poland, for the total amount of nearly 93 billion zlotys. We will commission a complete network of motorways: A1, A2, A4, as well as that of expressways, to mention only S3, S5, S6, S7, S8, S17, and the entire Warsaw ring road.

However, the upcoming years will witness mainly a revolution in the passenger railway transport. The changes introduced to PKP in 2012 have brought visible effects, and we expect railway lines investments to accelerate already this year. Before Christmas, the travel from Gdańsk to Warsaw will take less than three hours. We will be able to get from Wrocław to Warsaw in around three hours and forty minutes, from Katowice and Kraków to Warsaw – in ca. two hours and a half. In 2015, completely new trains will be put into service, and their value is estimated at 6 billion zlotys. At the end of the term of our office, ca. 70% of the PKP Intercity’s rolling stock will be new or modernised. For comparison, in 2011 it was on the level of only 20%.

One of the elements of our development strategy should be the best possible use of the Polish sea potential. Our harbours should constitute not only a window of the Polish economy to the world; they should also serve the European and global trade. It increases the economic as well as the political role of Poland in Europe. Therefore, we will consistently increase the capacity of the Polish harbours, as well as improve the land access infrastructure. In 2015, we will assign over 1 billion zlotys to that goal and over 11 billion zlotys by the end of 2010. The end of the current and the new EU financial perspective means further development of urban transport: new lines, tramways and buses. I do not have to explain how important the 13.5 billion zlotys for new rolling stock and tramway lines until 2020 are for the Polish cities and the Polish rolling stock manufacturers.

Ladies and Gentlemen Deputies, one of the most spectacular changes that is taking place in the modern world is the digital revolution. The universality of the Internet constitutes one of its elements. While recently it was mainly the domain of young people, it has become the everyday reality for nearly every one of us. Today, access to fast Internet services constitutes one of important elements of the Poland’s economic power and its civilizational development. Modern technology solutions, used by the Poles today, may significantly increase the feeling of security of the citizens. There is no reason for every Pole having a mobile phone or watching public television not to feel safer, being aware that the Polish state will inform them immediately on potential threats and natural disasters. My government will introduce such system.

Ladies and Gentlemen, it is only just that the culture should be available to all social groups independently on their place of residence and life standard, therefore we plan to implement the “Accessible Culture” (Kultura Dostępna) project, introducing cheaper tickets to the most important museums and theatres, free lessons for children and youth in cultural institutions and special offers for elderly persons. We will ensure a wider offer of books in libraries, increase free access to copyrighted books, as well as concert and theatre performances recordings through the Internet. We will establish a special educational programme, covering with its special care the historic places and museums being the source of modern patriotism and historical awareness of the young generation.
Ladies and Gentlemen Deputies, I do not ask you for one hundred days of peace, as it is not about peace, but about the possibility to cooperate on matters that are of utmost importance for Poland. Therefore I ask each and every one of you, present in this room today, the opposition in particular, for one hundred days of cooperation.

I would like to believe that, especially in matters such as the national defence, the energy security and the future of the Polish coal, this room will be able to reach an agreement. This is what all Poles expect of us today, and this is what we have to do. Therefore I would like to ask the Honourable Members of Parliament to give my cabinet the vote of confidence. Thank you.