+48 is the dialing code for Poland.
Poland lies squeezed between the great powers Germany and Russia (formerly the Soviet Union) and has been tried hard throughout history. The country, which has been divided on four occasions, became communist in the 1940s. During World War II, six million Poles were killed, half of whom were Jewish. A new period began in 1989, when communism fell and a democratization began. The country is now a member of both the EU and the NATO defense alliance.
- Abbreviationfinder: Brief profiles of Poland, including geography, history, politics, economics as well as common acronyms about this country.
Geography and climate
Poland, whose area corresponds to about three-quarters of Sweden’s, is centrally located in Europe, on the southern coast of the Baltic Sea. Poland’s present borders were given to Poland in 1945, after the end of the Second World War.
In the east, the country then withdrew one third of its area to the Soviet Union (presently southwestern Lithuania with the capital Vilnius, western Belarus and western Ukraine) and instead received in western and northeastern German areas corresponding to just over half of the loss (former German Lower Silesia, Pomerania and two thirds of East Prussia). So the whole of Poland was moved a few hundred kilometers west. The country thus got a longer coast towards the Baltic Sea than before.
Poland is largely a lowland; nine tenths of its surface is less than 300 meters above sea level. The Baltic Sea coast to the north is flat and sandy with numerous shallow beach lakes. In the great Gulf of Gdańsk, the country’s largest river, Wisła (Weichsel, Vistula), flows farther up through some of Poland’s largest cities, such as Krakow and Warsaw. Northern Poland is intersected in the east-west direction by a hilly moraine landscape, the Baltic land ridge, which marks where the southern border of the inland ice has long been low. Here are many lakes such as the Masurian lakes in the northeast.
|Cultivated land||48.2 %|
|Land area||312685 km 2|
Population and health
|Population development||-0.09 ‰|
|Urban population (Urbanization)||60.5 %|
|Death rate||10.19 per 1000 residents|
|Life expectancy: Women||81.5 years|
|Life expectancy: Men||73.53 years|
|Birth rate||9.74 births per 1000 residents|
|Infant mortality||4.5 deaths / 1000 births|
Population Graph Source: Countryaah.com
|Electricity, production||152700 million kWh|
|Energy consumption per inhabitant||2551.3 kg. oil per resident|
|Natural gas, production||6080 million cubic meters|
|Crude oil, production||million tons|
|Internet users||67.2 per 100 residents|
|Mobile subscriptions||155 per 100 residents|
|Passenger cars||537 per 1000 residents|
Business and economics
|Unemployment||10.6% of the workforce|
|GDP||26500 per resident|
|Primary occupations||12.9 %|
|Secondary profession||30.2 %|
|Tertiary professions||57 %|
At the border with Belarus lies the Białowieża forest, one of Europe’s few preserved forests. The forest is classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
In southern Poland, the landscape gradually rises to the mountains along the border with the Czech Republic and Slovakia. The fertile marshland Śląsk (pronounced “schlonsk”, in German Silesia) in the south-west is bounded on the south by the Sudeten mountain range. Through the Moorish gate, the Sudets are separated from the Carpathians in the southeast. The Carpathians belong to the mass High Tatra, where Poland’s highest mountain Rysy is located.
The coastal climate in northwestern Poland is changing to a more continental-influenced climate in the south-east.
In the interior of the country, around the capital of Warsaw, winter is usually quite short but the temperature often drops below zero. Summer is usually warm. Spring can come as early as March and the long autumn lasts in November.
311 888 km2 (2018)
Adjacent country (s)
Germany, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania, Russia (Kaliningrad region)
Capital with number of residents
Warsaw, about 1.7 million registered residents, about 1 million unrecorded (Sources: Allcitypopulation.com)
Other major cities
Kraków (760,000 inv), Łódź (737,000), Wrocław (631,000), Poznań (552,000), Gdańsk (457,000) (census 2011)
Rysy (in High Tatra; 2,499 m above sea level)
The last revolver survivor goes away
The last survivor of the Jewish revolt against the Nazis in the Warsaw ghetto in 1943 dies in Jerusalem. The memory of Simcha “Kazik” Rotem, who turned 94, is celebrated by Polish President Andrzej Duda. The uprising broke out when the Nazis, who kept Poland occupied, brought Jews to extermination camps.
Land grief for dead miners
13 miners die and ten are injured in a methane fire in a coal mine in Czech Karvina. Most of the victims are Poles, and Poland announces a day’s grief. The mine accident near the Polish border is the most serious in the Czech Republic since 1990, when 30 worked lost their lives. That incident also happened in Karvina.
Cooperation against Russian “magic trolls”
The UK and Poland will cooperate against Russian disinformation. The two NATO countries set up a joint function which, among other things, will mean that the security services exchange information on activities that are perceived as hostile. The message is given after a meeting between Prime Ministers Theresa May and Mateusz Morawiecki and the most closely related trade ministers (see December 21, 2017).
Poland votes against UN migration agreement
When the UN General Assembly ratifies an international agreement on migration aimed at establishing legal and safe ways to migrate, Poland is one of five countries voting against the agreement. The agreement is not binding on the member states, for example it does not entail any quotas for refugee reception.
Compulsory pension for judges canceled
The European Court confirms its earlier decision: the Polish law that forces a third of the judiciary into retirement – one of the political features that has opened for a government-controlled judiciary – must be revoked (see December 20, 2017 and October 19, 2018). The Polish parliament, following the EU Court’s interim decision, has withdrawn the Pension Act and now President Andrzej Duda signs the amendment. The judges concerned have already been able to return to service. However, the EU Court’s final ruling in the case is not expected until 2019.
Agreement with shortcomings on climate change
In Katowice, an international meeting is concluded on how a major climate agreement concluded in Paris 2015 can be realized. More than 150 countries agree, in overtime and after difficult negotiations, on how countries should measure and report carbon dioxide emissions. The difficult question of how to limit the global rise in temperature does not lead to decisions that are necessary according to the research community. The Paris Agreement aims to limit the greenhouse effect and help people in areas where the consequences are severe from climate change. The United States has backed down on promises of restrictions made in Paris, but other major countries are also against strict rules. Poland, for its part, is very dependent on coal, which contributes to troublesome emissions.
Gas pipeline from Norway is planned
Denmark and Poland agree to build a gas pipeline on the Baltic Sea’s bottom for natural gas from Norway to Poland. The idea is that a 90 km long pipeline will be ready for Norwegian deliveries in 2022, when a Polish gas purchase contract from Russian Gazprom ends (see 17 October).
The government takes a step back in refereeing
The Polish government gives in to a claim from the European Court of Justice: judges who have been forced to retire may re-enter service. The decision to compel some judges by lowering the retirement age was added, according to critics, to give the ruling party Law and Justice (PiS) control over the Supreme Court. Once the decision has been torn down, Poland may escape the threat of over EU fines – but the government has already strengthened its control over the judiciary in other ways. It has appointed a judge to the Constitutional Court, which has the power to stop legislation. PiS also has control over the council that will propose new names for the appointment of judges (see December 20, 2017 and October 19, 2018).
No to the UN migration agreement
20th of November
The Polish government announces: it does not sign the UN agreement on global cooperation on migration. Hungary, the Czech Republic and Austria have the same attitude – countries that also oppose the redistribution of refugees within the EU. The purpose of the UN agreement, which is scheduled to be adopted by the General Assembly, is to create safe paths for refugees and migrants, and agreement on legal opportunities for migration. The US has also chosen to stand outside the agreement.
Bishops support abuse investigation
Poland’s Catholic Episcopal Conference asks God and the victims of forgiveness for sexual abuse committed by priests. There is ongoing gathering of facts about the abuses and the church is urging people to report suspected cases to both church and state (see September 27 and October 2).
Prosecutors may call environmental decisions
Environmental activists report Poland’s Minister of Agriculture Jan Ardanowski to the Prosecutor’s Office for a decision on pesticides. So-called neonicotinoids are put in place by scientists in connection with extensive bees, which have major consequences in nature because bees have a key role in pollinating plants. The Minister of Agriculture has twice authorized the use of neonicotinoids, which the EU has banned, including beet growers. The organization Frank Bold and Greenpeace want the judiciary to examine whether Ardanowski has violated his powers. Polish beekeepers have also complained about his decision.
Border checks are reintroduced
Poland temporarily reintroduces border checks on 23 November – 16 December. It affects land borders with Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Lithuania, but also airports and ferry services in the Baltic Sea. The check must be carried out by sampling. The decision is justified by holding a climate meeting in Katowice December 3-14. In Sweden, which, like Poland, is part of the Schengen cooperation, border controls were reintroduced at the large wave of refugees in 2015.
Great turnout at the centenary
Government representatives take the lead in a military parade to celebrate Poland’s independence, on the day one hundred years after the end of World War II, when Poland re-emerged as a state. Warsaw’s mayor has tried in advance to ban a manifestation of extremist nationalist NGOs, for fear of racism and incitement to immigrants, which occurred in last March’s Independence Day movement. The state centennial parade, led by President Andrzej Duda, is announced at short notice and goes the same route as the extremists, which means that not much of the extreme messages penetrate the wide support of red-white flags and national anthems.
Trial against guard from death camp
A 94-year-old man believed to have worked as a camp guard near Gdańsk during World War II is being brought to trial in Germany. The Stutthof camp was run by the Nazi SS, which committed mass murders of both Polish and Jewish prisoners. Several elderly former camp guards have been tried in court in recent years. The legal basis that led to the prosecution is a 2011 judgment against Ukrainian-born John Demjanjuk, who had been a guard in the Sobibór extermination camp in Poland. Demjanjuk was not convicted of individual acts that could be proven, except for his service that enabled the organized mass murders. In April 2019, the court closed the case against the Stutthof guard, citing the man’s poor health to be tried.
The cities vote against the ruling party
The second round of local elections completes a hardship for Law and Justice (PiS): the ruling party has a majority of the population of the cities against it. The opposition has won all major cities as well as most medium and small cities. Zamo ść with 65,000 residents is the largest city to give PiS a rolling victory. The editor of the magazine Rzeczpospolita concludes that the Conservative Party has lost the middle class. As PiS dominates the countryside, the divide in Poland now appears even deeper than before.
The countryside votes for Law and Justice
The Government Party Law and Justice (PiS) strengthens its rural positions in local elections and gains a majority in six of 16 regional parliaments. The big cities are won by the more liberal alliance formed by the Citizens’ Platform (PO) and Moderna. Warsaw’s new mayor Rafał Trzaskowski (PO) receives more than twice the vote share as the PiS candidate. The opposition wins Łódź, Lublin, Poznań and Wrocław directly, and leads the second round in Gdańsk and Kraków on November 4. Since the nationalist PiS won the parliamentary elections in 2015, Poland has been on a collision course with the EU, but the government claims that social changes it is implementing, including within the judiciary, are necessary to remove the holders of power marked by the years of communist dictatorship. The relationship with the EU also plays a role at local level:
The European Court of Justice stops judicial reform
The European Court of Justice orders Poland to immediately withdraw the decision to lower the retirement age for judges from 70 to 65, which forces many court lawyers to stop working. The court order – which is an interim decision: that is, until the court has been able to go through the whole case – also means that newly appointed judges are not allowed to enter. At least 27 new judges have already been appointed, and one of the EU’s fundamental concerns is that they will not act independently but go to the ruling party’s affairs. Already this summer, the European Court of Justice announced that other EU countries have the right to say no to arrest warrants from Poland if there is reason to believe that suspected persons will not receive a fair trial (see September 20).
Poland exchanges Russian gas for American
The state-owned energy company PGNiG has signed a 20-year agreement on deliveries of liquefied natural gas from the United States. And the agreements will be more: at Christmas time it is announced that they have spent the autumn concluding three different agreements with a long time perspective. The aim is to avoid the dependence on Russia, which now covers two thirds of Polish consumption. Agreements with Russian Gazprom expire in 2022 and US deliveries will start after that. Poland also wants to import from Norway and Qatar.
New HD judges appointed
President Andrzej Duda appoints another 27 new judges to the Supreme Court, despite criticism both within the country and from the EU, which states that the appointments reduce the judiciary’s independence from political governance (see September 20). Mass media are not allowed to watch the ceremony.
Damage to woman after clergy abuse
A damages judgment against a Catholic organization is set in higher court. According to the Poznan court, a young woman who has been abused by a priest is entitled to the equivalent of SEK 2.3 million in damages and a life-long pension. The abuse took place when she was 13 and she got psychic but which led to several suicide attempts. The priest was arrested in 2008 and sentenced to four years in prison. Only in 2017 was he forced to leave the priesthood. The damages are the highest awarded against a religious institution in Poland.
Norwegian award to MR Ombudsman
The human rights lawyer Adam Bodnar and the institute he leads are awarded the Norwegian Rafto Prize, which will be awarded in Bergen on November 4. Bodnar serves as an ombudsman for human rights and is praised as a custodian of democracy, minorities and courts independent of political power. The award is named after activist Thorolf Rafto and several former award winners have also received the Nobel Peace Prize.
Bishop asks for forgiveness for abuse
Roman Archbishop Romuald Kaminski apologizes to victims of sexual abuse within his diocese. In his diocese in eastern Warsaw, twelve cases have been investigated and ten confirmed over the course of 26 years. Now there are guidelines for how the church should protect children and young people in the future. The guidelines should be disseminated within all dioceses, the Catholic Church in Poland announced in 2014, which made a public apology. According to the Don’t Be Afraid Foundation, which provides support to the victims, in recent years 56 priests have been convicted of child abuse or possession.
A new court case is brought to the European Court of Justice
EU Commission on the issue of maximum age for judges in the Supreme Court of the European Court of Justice. The Polish Government argues that the law that lowers the retirement age of judges is a national issue, while the European Commission believes that it violates the independence of the courts and thus the Union’s legal order. This is the second time the reforms in the Polish judiciary are being passed on to the European Court of Justice. At the end of 2017, a case involving lower court judges was pending. The goal has not yet been decided.
Judges to punish colleagues appointed
President Andrzej Duda appoints ten new judges to serve in the Supreme Court. They should be part of a newly established courtroom for disciplinary matters. Experts fear that the Discipline Chamber has been formed to punish judges who are critical of the government. The EU threatens Poland with sanctions for the ruling party Law and Justice’s overthrow of the judiciary (see July 2, 2018 and December 20, 2017).
Criticism against Poland for tomb openings
Polish President Lech Kaczynski and 95 other people died in 2010 in a plane crash in Smolensk, Russia. Russian and Polish accident investigators concluded that the crash was due to bad weather and human error, but in 2016, Polish authorities began to open the death tombs to investigate theories of other causes. The European Court of Human Rights is now criticizing Poland for the burial openings. According to the court, they involved a violation of the relatives, who were not legally allowed to stop the handling. President Kaczynski’s twin brother Jaroslaw, a conservative party leader, is one of those who questioned the theory of the accident. The plane was on its way to a memorial in Katyn, where the Soviet Union secret police massacred Polish officers in 1940.
Poland is shut down from court networks
Poland is excluded from a judicial cooperation forum in the EU countries, ENCJ in English abbreviation. “It is a prerequisite for membership that the courts have an independent position,” reads the motivation. The Polish politicians’ handling of the judiciary has led to the EU Commission initiating an Article 7 proceeding against Poland (see 2 July 2018 and 20 December 2017), but Hungary has become party to Poland and can stop the most severe penalties.
The HD power measurement rolls on
President Duda appoints Dariusz Zawistowski as acting Chief Justice of the Supreme Court at the same time as incumbent Chief Judge Małgorzata Gersdorf refuses to leave his post (see July 2018). Gersdorf and a number of other judges have been forcibly retired by the government but have been given the opportunity to apply for extended contracts. Duda announces that five of those forcibly retired can continue.
Mayor challenges government party
Robert Biedroń, mayor of the city of Słupsk and EU friend, is in the process of forming a new party which he himself describes as progressive. He is aiming for the Sejm, the Polish parliament, in the fall of 2019, but the new party will meet voters as early as spring in elections to the European Parliament. Biedroń is among other things for free abortion and gay marriage. He wants to challenge the conservative and nationalist interests that have led Poland to edge with many other EU countries.
Protests against new law on the appointment of judges
Thousands of people are protesting in Poland when President Andrzej Duda signs a legislative amendment to simplify the process of appointing a chief judge for the Supreme Court and considered open to political control of the appointment. Current Chief Judge Małgorzata Gersdorf has refused to leave the post, which she would have done under new legislation from earlier in July. The Polish government has been heavily criticized by the EU as well as human rights organizations in recent times for new laws undermining the judiciary’s independent position.
Polish HD judge defies forced retirement decision
Dozens of judges in the Supreme Court say they refuse to leave their posts on the grounds that the government’s decision to compel them to retire violates the constitution. The President of the Court Małgorzata Gersdorf appears as usual in his workplace. Outside the courthouse, thousands of people gather to show their support for her, waving both Polish and EU flags. Among the protesters is the former union leader and President Lech Wałęsa.
The European Commission initiates legal proceedings against Poland
The European Commission is launching a new judicial process against Poland, in response to the already heavily criticized Polish legal reform, which means, among other things, that 40 percent of the Supreme Court judges can be forced to leave their positions. The Governing Law and Justice (PiS) has lowered the retirement age for the judges from 70 years to 65 years, and says that the judicial reform is needed to combat corruption and get rid of the legacy of the Communist years. Critics claim it instead poses a threat to the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary. The judges can turn to the president until July 3 and request that they continue to work after they turn 65. Among other things, the European Commission responds to the President’s right to say no to such exceptions without justifying his decision. Poland is now given a month to respond to the European Commission.
Judges refuse to be retired
Dozens of judges in the Supreme Court say they refuse to leave their seats on July 3, citing the government’s decision to compulsorily retire them against the Constitution. The Governing Law and Justice (PiS) has lowered the retirement age for the judges from 70 years to 65 years, and says that the judicial reform is needed to combat corruption and get rid of the legacy of the Communist years. Critics claim it instead poses a threat to the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary.
Criticized law on the Holocaust changes
A widely debated law sharply criticized by Israel is changing. The sections removed that made it possible to convict someone who accuses the Polish government for complicity to the Holocaust to a fine or imprisonment (see F ebruary 2018).
Anti-corruption agencies criticize Poland
The Council of Europe’s Anti-Corruption Agency, GRECO, warns in a new report that Poland’s judges no longer live up to the demands of unprejudiced rules to combat corruption. It is particularly criticized that 27 of the 72 judgments in the Supreme Court will have to retire because of the new laws introduced. GRECo also criticizes the fact that the National Council, which appoints judges and other positions in the judiciary and has an investigative role, has become politicized.
The government wants to pay the US for having troops in Poland
The government offers to help the United States with the cost of having a permanent military base with tanks in Poland. The aim would be to prevent Russian military attacks. Poland could contribute between EUR 1.3 billion and EUR 1.7 billion, which would primarily be spent on infrastructure. In September, when President Andrzej Duda visits the White House, US President Donald Trump says he is seriously considering the matter. 3,000 American soldiers are stationed in the Natoland.
The judicial reforms are slightly adjusted
Parliament makes some changes to the EU’s highly-criticized judicial reforms. The amendments concern, among other things, the Supreme Court (HD) and the national judicial council KRS, whose task is to guarantee the independence of the judiciary. PiS says it is about concessions to avoid the EU sanctions threat, but the opposition and HD consider these to be minor corrections. Among other things, the Minister of Justice’s powers to dismiss high judges are reduced, and the retirement age for female judges is increased from 60 years to 65 years.
Russian diplomats expelled
Poland expels four Russian diplomats as a result of a nerve poisoning attack on a Russian former spy and his daughter in the UK in early March. It is taking place in concerted action with some 20 countries, mainly in the EU, in solidarity with the British government accusing Russia of being behind the attack. In total, over 100 Russian diplomats are expelled, 60 of whom are from the United States. Moscow denies all involvement in the poison attack and threatens with countermeasures.
Poland responds to EU sanctions threat
At the last minute, the PiS government leaves an answer to the EU on how Poland should do to avoid the sanctions that the Union may face against the country because of the criticized judicial reforms. On December 20, 2017, the EU initiated a process of imposing sanctions on Poland if it did not comply with the Union’s demands for an independent judiciary. The EU gave Poland a deadline of 20 March 2018 to respond to the sanctions threat. The government says it is willing to talk to the EU about a solution to the conflict that is acceptable to both parties. The sanctions may mean that Poland is deprived of its right to vote in the EU’s decision-making body, but Hungary has said it is ready to veto the sanctions.
The government is reduced in size
the 12th of March
Prime Minister Morawiecki announces that he will reduce the size of the government by abolishing 17 Deputy Prime Minister posts. Morawiecki has previously been criticized for his PiS government being too big and too expensive.
Duda regrets deportation of Jews in 1968
President Duda asks forgiveness on behalf of the Polish Republic to the Jews driven out of the country by the communist regime in 1968, when an estimated 15,000 Jews (half the Jewish minority in Poland) were deprived of their citizenship and kicked out of the country. Today’s Poland regrets the “shameful act”, Duda says in a speech, but does not make a formal apology. The expulsions took place after student demonstrations that spread around the country were beaten with force by the regime. Many students and teachers were of Jewish burden and the Communist Party responded by driving Jews out of the country.
Military commands from the communist era are degraded
The PiS-dominated parliament adopts a law that deprives commanders who served within the armed forces during the communist period between 1943 and 1990 their military degrees.
Senator: “Report gossip about Poland”
Polish Senator Stanislaw Karczewski, in an open letter, urges his compatriots to notify Polish diplomats when they hear someone blackening the Polish nation. He asks them to “… document and respond to all anti-Polish hostility, expression and opinions that harm us. Notify our embassies, consulates and honorary consulates of all gossip that is damaging Poland’s good reputation…”.
The conflict with Israel about a new law deepens
At a security conference in Munich, Germany, a war of words between Prime Minister Morawiecki and his Israeli colleague Benjamin Netanyahu erupts over the new Polish law that makes it punishable for accusing the Polish state of participation in Nazi Germany’s attempt to exterminate the Jewish population during the Holocaust. When Morawiecki says during a press conference in Munich that there were also Jewish perpetrators during the Holocaust, Netanyahu is upset that the statement is appalling and shows that Morawiecki is insensitive to the tragedy affecting the Jewish people.
The law on Poland’s role in the Holocaust comes into force
6th of February
President Duda, as expected, signs the law that makes it punishable to accuse the Polish state of complicity in the Holocaust during World War II and to denote the Nazi regime’s death camp on occupied Polish land for Polish. At the same time, Duda instructs the Constitutional Court to review the law so that it does not violate the freedom of expression.
Illegally blaming Poland for the Holocaust
Parliament votes for a law that makes it punishable to accuse “the Polish nation or state” of being guilty or complicit in the Holocaust during World War II; The law also makes it illegal to describe the Nazi death camps in Poland as Polish. Israel condemns the law and describes it as an attempt to revise history, to deny the Nazis’ attempts to exterminate Europe’s Jewish population, and to diminish the role of Nazi associates, including many Poles, in the Holocaust. The United States also expresses concern. In the Holocaust, about six million Jews were killed. Many Roma, homosexuals and others were also murdered in extermination camps, some of which were occupied by Nazi Germany occupied Poland. The camps were built and operated by the Nazi regime after the invasion of Poland in 1939 (see also Modern History).
Liberal abortion law is voted down
A proposal for a more liberal abortion law is voted down in Parliament, which instead begins to prepare a proposal for stricter abortion legislation where fetuses with malformations will no longer be able to abort.
Government reform should appease the EU
Prime Minister Morawiecki is making extensive government reforms when he replaces nearly half of his ministers. Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski is replaced by Jacek Czaputowicz, who is described as a central politician, and Defense Minister Antoni Macierewicz is replaced by Interior Minister Mariusz Blaszczak. The finance minister and several others are also losing their jobs. The changes are made in connection with the Prime Minister meeting with the President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker and stated that Poland wants to improve relations with the EU threatening the country with sanctions because of a number of judicial reforms which the Union considers restrict the independence of the judiciary. Morawiecki, however, insists that Poland needs to reform its legal system.