Poland’s new prime minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, put his stamp on the government Tuesday in a wide-ranging Cabinet reshuffle that saw many of the country’s most controversial ministers lose their jobs.
The move comes ahead of a meeting Tuesday evening in Brussels between Morawiecki and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, and could signal an effort on the part of Warsaw to improve relations with the EU. Poland is facing unprecedented pressure from the EU over concerns that it is violating the bloc’s democratic principles.
“For us, the most important matter is to build a strong and safe Poland, both within the country as well as abroad,” Morawiecki said after announcing the changes to President Andrzej Duda.
The most contentious change involves Antoni Macierewicz, who lost his job at the defense ministry.
Macierewicz is a powerful figure within the ruling Law and Justice party. He is strongly backed by the ultra-Catholic and nationalist wing of the party, largely for his theories that the 2010 air crash that killed Poland’s president and other top officials was the result of a conspiracy. However, Macierewicz put relations with France in a deep freeze after scuppering a deal to buy helicopters from Airbus, and his purge of the top leadership of the Polish military has created worries among NATO allies.
Macierwicz is being replaced by Mariusz Błaszczak, the former interior minister and one of the closest allies of Jarosław Kaczyński, the leader of Law and Justice and Poland’s most powerful politician.
Witold Waszczykowski is out as foreign minister. He tried to defend the government’s reforms of the judicial system, which critics charge put judges under the control of the ruling party, but a series of gaffes soured relations with Germany and didn’t help in Brussels.
The new foreign minister is Jacek Czaputowicz, a much less controversial figure who had been a deputy foreign minister.
Radosław Sikorski, foreign minister in the previous centrist government, tweeted that Czaputowicz is a “patriot” and a civil servant who understands how the ministry functions.
Jan Szyszko, the former environment minister, is also out. He allowed a big increase in logging in the primeval and protected Białowieża forest, something that prompted the Commission to launch an infringement case against Poland before the European Court of Justice. Szyszko was also an ardent defender of the use of coal and expanded the rights of Polish hunters. He is being replaced by Henryk Kowalczyk, a minister without portfolio.
Konstanty Radziwiłł lost his post as health minister. During his term in office the Polish health service was shaken by doctors’ strikes. Radziwiłł’s religious views on issues like abortion and contraception also made him a controversial figure for the government. The new minister is Łukasz Szumowski, formerly a deputy higher education minister.
Anna Streżyńska, the digital affairs minister and widely seen as one of the most competent members of the government, was also removed.
The reshuffle left Law and Justice’s most radical partisans dismayed, and the opposition pleased about the changes.
“It’s good that Macierewicz, Waszczykowski and Szyszko are leaving this government,” said Kamila Gasiuk-Pihowicz, parliamentary leader of the opposition Modern party. “However, we still don’t know much about the new ministers.”