a plan to “de-Russify” the economy and counter Moscow’s “gas blackmail”

Poland is the most advanced country in terms of accepting Ukrainian refugees (see box below). It is also one of Russia’s most threatened neighbors, having done her great harm throughout history and de facto always aroused mistrust. And with the new world order that emerged after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the accompanying Western sanctions on Moscow, Poland wants to break free from economic dependence on Russia. This Friday, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki announced a series of so-called “anti-Putin shield” measures designed, in his words, to “de-Russify the Polish and European economy”, as well as curb inflation, protect jobs and resist gas blackmail” from Moscow.

“We will work on the de-Russification of the Polish and European economy, because Poland today is at the forefront of all those countries that seek to inspire others to get out of dependence on Russian gas, oil and coal,” the head of the Polish government said during a press conference. He clarified that the purpose of the “anti-Putin shield” is to resist “the impact of Putin’s gas blackmail” and, above all, “to prevent the rise in food prices.”

Consequently, the state is investing three billion zlotys (636 million euros) in the state-owned company Gaz-System, which builds and operates gas pipelines and a gas terminal at the port of Swinoujscie in the west of the country. Gaz-system, in particular, is building the Baltic Pipe gas pipeline, which is to supply Norwegian gas to Poland by the end of the year and reduce the country’s dependence on Russian gas.

Fighting inflation

Poland’s prime minister announced last Saturday that temporary measures taken at the end of November to combat high inflation would be extended. These measures included, inter alia, a series of temporary tax cuts. The anti-inflationary shield, strengthened in early February, significantly reduced the VAT on gas (from 23% to 8%, then to 0% from February 1). VAT on electricity, fuel, heating and fertilizers has also been reduced. Inflation in Poland is growing rapidly – in January it reached 9.2% – and last Monday the złoty crossed the symbolic threshold of 5 złoty to one euro, after which it rose slightly. The Central Bank of Poland (NBP) recently announced an increase in its main key rate to 3.50% from 2.75% previously.

New measures

Therefore, in order to curb the already sharp rise in food prices, the state is going to pay farmers affected by the rise in fertilizer prices an allowance of 500 zlotys (almost one hundred euros) per hectare of arable land and half of this amount per hectare. pastures. This assistance will be limited to fifty hectares per farm.

Its size is reminiscent of the 500+ child allowance, the flagship measure of the conservative government in power in Poland since 2015, which has earned recognition, especially from disadvantaged segments of the population.

Among other sectors of the economy affected by the consequences of the war in Ukraine and Western sanctions against Russia, Mateusz Morawiecki named road transport, an area in which Poland has a very strong presence in Europe.

Asked about Russian coal purchases and a possible embargo, he said he was “awaiting bold decisions from the European Commission” and indicated that Poland was seeking supplies from South Africa, Australia, Colombia and the United States. not be blackmailed.”

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Two thirds of Ukrainian refugees are in Poland

According to Polish border guards, the number of people who came from Ukraine to Poland to escape the Russian invasion on Friday exceeded two million people. Mostly women with children. Comparing this figure with the UN’s estimate of the total number of Ukrainian refugees, we see that two out of three entered Poland. However, many of them want to continue their journey to Western Europe or Canada. The total number of refugees fleeing the Russian invasion of Ukraine surpassed 3.1 million on Thursday, according to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The overwhelming majority are citizens of Ukraine. However, about 162,000 third-country nationals have left Ukraine, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said on Wednesday.

The UN has also identified about two million internally displaced persons. In recent days, the Polish authorities have noted a decrease in the number of new arrivals. Thus, the readings recorded on Friday between 2300 GMT and 0600 GMT were 41% lower than the same period the day before. And on Thursday, the total drop for the day was 11%. Moreover, since the beginning of the Russian offensive on February 24, 227,000 people have crossed the Polish-Ukrainian border in the opposite direction.

In Poland, the massive influx of Ukrainians was welcomed by society and the authorities. From Wednesday, Ukrainians can officially register with the municipalities where they live, in order to enjoy, among other things, access to medical services and provide temporary schooling for their children.

(with AFP)