Polish foreign minister calls press conference for foreign media correspondents

“I wanted to share with you our assessment of Friday’s developments in and outside the Sejm,” Minister Witold Waszczykowski told foreign media correspondents at a press conference called to take stock of the current situation in the country.

“On Friday, the Sejm was getting ready to vote on the 2017 budget bill and other bills, for instance to cut the welfare benefits for former members of Communist-era security apparatus. When the voting session started, a vast majority of opposition politicians started to disrupt it, demanding a change of the new rules for allowing the press to cover the Sejm announced in January,” Minister Waszczykowski said. Until now, media presence in the Polish Parliament had not been regulated clearly and unequivocally so as to allow both MPs and journalists to do their jobs professionally. The new rules were designed to improve the work comfort, security and professionalism of journalists and politicians alike. They will also help to improve the image of the Sejm and Senate. “These new rules weren’t meant to restrict access for journalists to politicians but to introduce some order. In January a plan was put forward to set up a professional studio for the media, where journalists could work and invite politicians, instead of doing their work in the corridors and during breaks often in a way that was beneath the dignity of politicians and reporters,” he added. In view of the situation, Senate Speaker Stanisław Karczewski met with representatives of the media on Saturday, 17 December. The next meeting on the organisation of journalists’ work in the parliament house is scheduled for Monday, 19 December. The Senate Speaker announced he would present a package of proposals to be discussed.

Recounting Friday’s parliamentary session, the foreign minister said that the “Sejm Speaker intervened to stop quite aggressive behaviour shown by some politicians of the opposition, and excluded one of them from the proceedings.” “His decision led to an escalation of the conflict. The opposition started first to block the podium, and then to occupy the chair of Sejm Speaker Marek Kuchciński,” recalled the minister. “After a few hours of talks when the Council of Seniors met, no agreement with the opposition was reached. The Sejm Speaker decided to move the session to the Column Hall, where we finished voting on the budget and other bills. When we organised this vote, we opened the Column Hall and the opposition was free to enter; for instance, a number of MPs from the Kukiz’15 group took part in the vote,” explained the chief of Polish diplomacy.

Minister Waszczykowski stressed that the “vote was held in compliance with parliamentary rules of procedure and the law.” “It was a very traditional vote, like the ones held twenty years ago with no electronic devices. Votes were counted and entered in the minutes as provided for by the Sejm’s Rules of Procedure. Such votes were held in the past, so this one was not a precedent. Parliaments in some countries hold this type of vote, often without using electronic systems,” said the minister.

“This situation stirred even stronger protests, which spilled out into the streets outside the Sejm building. It was clear that they were pre-orchestrated. Stands, lights and speakers suddenly cropped up from nowhere. What happened at the Sejm was only a pretext for starting a mass-scale protest against the situation in Poland. We think these protests are the result of the opposition being somewhat frustrated,” Minister Waszczykowski added, saying he hoped that “after yesterday’s mediations undertaken by President Andrzej Duda that will be continued today, the situation will calm down and return to normal."

The MFA head announced he was going on a visit to Cairo for a meeting of EU countries with the Arab League states. “If my European colleagues have any questions, I’m ready to provide them with explanations. I got the impression that some Western media decided to cover Friday’s and Saturday’s events in Poland in a way that was a bit bizarre,” added the minister.

Source: Polish MFA press office