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The Other Poland

When Poland's Solidarity brought down the communist regime in 1989, it embraced the idea of a Poland for everyone rather than a state divided between omnipotent winners and oppressed losers. But today, a Poland of suspicion, fear, and revenge is fighting a Poland of hope, courage, and dialogue.

Recently, the European Parliament condemned the Polish government’s attempt to strip Bronislaw Geremek of his parliamentary mandate. A leader of Solidarity, a former political prisoner, and the foreign minister responsible for Poland’s accession to NATO, Geremek had refused to sign yet another declaration that he had not been a communist secret police agent.

The EU parliamentarians called the Polish government’s actions a witch-hunt, and Geremek declared Poland’s “lustration” law a threat to civil liberties. In response, Polish Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski accused Geremek of “damaging his fatherland” and “provoking an anti-Polish affair.” The same phrases were used by Communists when Geremek criticized their misrule.

A ruling by Poland’s Constitutional Court issued on May 11 gutted much of the lustration law, and made Germek’s position in the EU parliament safe – at least for now. But the lustration law was but one act among many in a systematic effort by Poland’s current government to undermine the country’s democratic institutions and fabric.

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