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The Warsaw Voice » Comments » May 28, 2008
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From the news editor
May 28, 2008   
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Poland's political leaders have been criss-crossing the globe in a flurry of foreign trips in recent weeks. President Lech Kaczyński first visited Israel, where he took part in celebrations marking the 60th anniversary of the Jewish state, and then traveled to Ukraine for an "energy summit" of Central European countries and former Soviet republics. Observers agree that the president is conducting a highly active campaign in pursuit of energy security, representing not only Warsaw's position, but also that of the European Union at high-profile international meetings.

Prime Minister Donald Tusk, meanwhile, spent more than a week in Latin America, first at the EU-Latin America-Caribbean summit in the Peruvian capital Lima, and then on official visits in Peru and Chile. Unlike the president's visit, the prime minister's trip aroused fierce criticism from the opposition, both from the right and the left, and from part of the public. The opposition accused the prime minister and his aides for wasting taxpayers' money on what they labeled a private vacation. Tusk did not help himself by admitting in an interview that he was on a "trip of a lifetime".

The government's ideas for reforming the country's ailing health system have also come under fire. During last year's election campaign, the Law and Justice (PiS) party, now in opposition, argued that one of the dangers of the Civic Platform (PO) winning power would be the quick and dishonest privatization of public hospitals, resulting in the loss of reliable healthcare for poorer citizens.

At the time PO ruled out the privatization of hospitals. But now, six months after coming to power, it has unveiled plans to transform debt-ridden state-owned hospitals into businesses controlled by local authorities-a move often seen as the first step towards full privatization. The opposition, as well as some medical professionals, are up in arms, claiming that soon the type of credit card a patient has will determine what quality of treatment he or she will receive.

Another political battle is raging over the government's amendment to the law on radio and television. The amendment was vetoed by the president, who said that such a move would open the door to the privatization of public media, obliterating its public service ethos.

Parliamentary arithmetic shows that in order to override the presidential veto, the governing coalition of the Civic Platform and the Polish People's Party (PSL) would have to gain the support of the majority of leftist opposition parties. But the largest of these, the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD), has said that it will abstain from voting, and it seems that the government will be defeated in the battle over the media.
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