WARSAW: Experts Shunned By Faltering Foreign Ministry


Polish News Bulletin
Gazeta Wyborcza p. 3
August 3, 2007 Friday

Since the appointment of Anna Fotyga as foreign minister,
experts holding high posts in Polish diplomacy have been gradually
sidetracked, through many different methods. It would probably be
impossible to find another European state in which the authorities
have deliberately chosen not to use the experience and skills of
seasoned diplomats, including former ministers and deputy ministers,
to their advantage. The situation in Poland is all the more peculiar,
given that a lack of experts is known to be one of the major problems
troubling Law and Justice (PiS), with the Foreign Ministry unable to
appoint ambassadors to countries of particular importance to Poland’s
international relations, such as France, Italy and Spain.

Nearly all of the sidetracked diplomats have been downgraded, without
clear reasons, which has created a lot of space for speculation
regarding the matter. At present, most of them hold low posts in the
institution and their competence is limited. Some have chosen to give
up their posts themselves, as a result of certain steps taken by the
ruling party. Such was the case with Stefan Meller, who stepped down
as foreign minister following PM Jaroslaw Kaczynski’s decision to
appoint Andrzej Lepper, head of the populist Self-Defence (Samoobrona)
party, as deputy PM. Meller is currently working in the East Europe
Department of the ministry, where his job is to oversee relations
between Armenia and Turkey.

Another person to give up a high post in Polish diplomacy was
Stanislaw Komorowski, former deputy foreign minister. He says his
decision was tied to the discomfort he was experiencing in the new
political situation. While normally his qualifications would make
him a strong candidate for the post of Polish ambassador to most
European states, he is presently a clerk in the Asia and Pacific
Ocean Department. Reportedly, Kaczynski said that as long as he
remains president, Komorowski will not head any Polish embassy.

In most cases, however, it was not up to the sidetracked experts
to decide whether they wanted to remain in their post or not. For
example, in autumn 2006 Fotyga dismissed Henryk Szlajfer as head of
the North America Department due to suspicions of his involvement
with the communist special services. Although the diplomat rejected
the accusations and sought to clear his name before the vetting
court, he could not do so as the post he then held was not subject to
vetting. The issue has not been cleared until this day, with Szlajfer
given the low-prestige post of head of the Foreign Ministry’s archive.

Earlier, in May 2006, the authorities got rid of Ryszard Schnepf,
then secretary of state and adviser on economic affairs to previous
PM Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz. Officially, the reason for his dismissal
was that he continued to advance the idea of Poland’s involvement
in the German-Russian North European Gas Pipeline, which is to link
the two countries via the Baltic sea bed. According to unofficial
information, however, Schnepf had to go because he made a certain
declaration which was to be made publicly by Marcinkiewicz and which
the Kaczynski brothers did not want to be made at all. Moreover,
Schnepf is in conflict with controversial Polish businessman Jan
Kobylanski, who has gained a strong influence in the Foreign Ministry.

Two other downgraded experts are Pawel Dobrowolski, former head
of the ministry’s information system department, and former Deputy
Foreign Minister Witold Sobkow. Dobrowolski lost his post after he
dared to post an article mocking the Kaczynski brothers, which was
originally featured in German daily Tageszeitung on the ministry’s
Internet site. As for Sobkow, he was sacked after rumours surfaced
that he had been refused access to confidential state documents.

Although the rumours turned out to be untrue, despite his skills and
experience the diplomat continues to hold the post of an ordinary
clerk in the ministry.