The Polish government on Tuesday announced a major reshuffle of the cabinet on the eve of Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki’s visit to Brussels.
Warsaw replaced seven ministers hours before the meeting between Morawiecki and the president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker. The meeting follows the EU’s decision to invoke article 7 of the treaties censuring Poland for its controversial judicial reforms, seen by Brussels as undermining the independence of the courts.
Defense Minister Antoni Macierewicz and Foreign Minister Witold Wasczykowsky were among the most high-profile ministers to lose their jobs in the shake-up. The Ministers of Finance, Interior, Technology, Environment and Health were also replaced. Macierewicz and Walczykowski were regarded by the EU as two of Poland’s more belligerent ministers. The former is seen as representing the radical nationalist right and spearheading the conspiracy theory that the plane crash that killed the country’s then president, Lech Kaczyński, and dozens of senior Polish official near Smolensk in Russia in 2010 was a Russian plot.
The first step in Warsaw’s rapproachment came before Christmas, with the replacement of Prime Minister Beata Szydlo by the more moderate Morawiecki, who was worked for Santander bank before becoming finance minister.
At the swearing-in ceremony for the new ministers, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said: « It is a priority for us to build a secure and strong Poland. We do not want to be a doctrinaire government, a government of extremes.”
“I would like our government to be remembered as a good government for Polish families and a good government for Polish security, he added.
But Poland is far from out of the woods yet. Article 7 procedures are still ongoing, even if Hungary has vowed to veto them in the Council, and there is a growing chorus of countries arguing that EU funds should be linked to respect for EU values. Warsaw will have to convince its EU partners that the remodelling of the government is a sign of more changes to come.