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The Warsaw Voice » Law » April 28, 2011
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Law in brief
April 28, 2011   
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EU Treaty to Change
The European parliament has agreed to amend the EU Treaty to allow euro-zone countries to set up a permanent anti-crisis mechanism aimed at ensuring the stability of the single currency.

After being approved by an EU summit, the changes in the treaty will have to be ratified by all EU members, including countries outside the euro zone. Under a decision by an EU summit in December last year, countries outside the euro zone will be able to take part in the development of anti-crisis mechanisms. Poland has expressed a desire to do so.

Advice for Poles Seeking Jobs Abroad
Although the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy does not expect a sudden surge in emigration, it is organizing informational campaigns for Polish citizens planning to work in Germany and Austria after these countries’ labor markets fully open to Polish workers May 1.

The websites of the Polish embassies in Austria and Germany provide information for those seeking employment in these countries. The websites give people advice on how to avoid being deceived by an employment agent and how to register their own business.

The websites also provide basic information about labor law in Germany and Austria. The main difference from Polish labor law is that there is no official minimum wage in these countries. Hourly rates for workers in different sectors of the economy are regulated by collective agreements negotiated each year between trade unions and employers’ associations.

Also available is information about what documents those planning to work in Germany and Austria need to collect before applying for a residence permit. Such a permit is required of all those who want to stay legally in Austria or Germany for more than three months.

Tougher Rules on Offset Programs
EU defense directive No. 81, which comes into force in August, will toughen rules on negotiating offset programs with foreign suppliers of military weapons. Under the new rules, the value of compensation will be no higher than the value of the purchase, and the transferred technology will have to be related to the purchased equipment.

Chemicals Under Supervision
A new law on chemical substances has come into force. The law introduces an obligation to label every chemical substance. It also defines those required to perform these activities. The law regulates the terms and conditions of production, marketing and use of chemicals. Exceptions include cosmetics, waste, animal feed, pesticides and radioactive materials.

Poland Goes to Court Over Nord Stream
An administrative court in Hamburg is preparing to rule on whether a decision to permit the construction of a gas pipeline along its current route from Russia to Germany was legal. According to Poland’s Szczecin and 安inouj軼ie Seaport Authority, the pipeline blocks the development of the Polish port of 安inouj軼ie.

The Szczecin and 安inouj軼ie Seaport Authority has appealed to the Hamburg court against a permit issued by the local Office of Hydrography and Navigation. The permit authorized the Nord Stream consortium to build a gas pipeline under the Baltic Sea.

The Polish government and the Szczecin and 安inouj軼ie Seaport Authority wanted the pipeline to be rerouted, but this bid has been only partially successful. While the movement of vessels with a draft of up to 13.5 meters is unrestricted, Nord Stream blocks access for vessels with a draft greater than 15 meters, and this in practice limits the development of the port, according to Polish officials. The pipeline is being built at a depth of 18.5 meters, but taking into account the width of the pipes and the “protection zone” around the pipeline, the area of navigation is limited, the Szczecin and 安inouj軼ie Seaport Authority says.

Prison Terms for Polluters
The lower house of parliament has amended the Penal Code, introducing heavy penalties for those who pollute the environment. The most severe penalties, up to 12 years in prison, are for those who cause someone’s death as a result of polluting water, soil or air with harmful substances. Those exposing other people to serious illness or injury by ignoring environmental protection regulations are liable to a prison term of up to 10 years.

The introduction of tougher penalties for polluters is the result of a European Union directive that obligates member states, including Poland, to revise their national laws.

The purpose of the changes in law is to ensure more effective protection of the environment. The government believes that, with such sanctions, environmental protection regulations will be more effective than administrative fines.

European Anti-Fraud Office to Be Reformed
The European Commission has adopted a proposal to reform the EU’s Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF). The aim is to improve the efficiency, effectiveness and accountability of the office, while safeguarding its investigative independence, officials said.

Since it was set up in 1999, OLAF has carried out around 4,500 investigations and has contributed to protecting the EU budget against fraudulent activity. According to EU officials, improvements are needed to assist OLAF in performing to its full potential. The proposal includes measures to ensure that OLAF’s investigations are conducted and followed up more efficiently, to protect the rights of those under investigation and to reinforce cooperation between OLAF and the European Parliament and Council to better protect the EU’s financial interests against fraud.

Softer on Personal Drug Use
Under a newly adopted law on counteracting drug addiction, those in possession of a small amount of drugs or psychotropic substances intended for personal use will be able to avoid penal measures.

In some cases, proceedings against such people will be dropped before a formal investigation is started.

“Drug addicts are sick people who need medical treatment, not punishment,” said leftist deputy Stanis豉w Rydzo, a member of the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD), which drafted the law and submitted it to parliament.
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