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Polish minister embroiled in controversy over education grants

08.02.2023 11:22
Poland’s education minister Przemysław Czarnek has faced a political backlash after he granted subsidies to foundations reportedly linked to individuals associated with the ruling Law and Justice party.
Minister Czarnek has sparked a political furore with his decision concerning grants for education projects.
Minister Czarnek has sparked a political furore with his decision concerning grants for education projects. PAP/Piotr Nowak

The minister was taken to task by opposition parties for handing PLN 40 million (EUR 8.4 million) to 42 non-governmental organisations and for explaining that “the basic criterion was not to give money to left-wing ideologists and communists because that’d fall foul of the constitution.”

Twelve of the recipient organisations will be able to utilise the subsidies to construct or acquire properties, including real estate in Warsaw's sought-after neighbourhoods, a local in a historic tenement house or a plot with two ponds, a forest, and a beekeeper’s house in the vicinity of the northern Polish city of Elbląg.

"For a week, we have witnessed a barrage of hatred, rudeness, and hate speech addressed against the boards of non-governmental organizations, who are doing remarkable work in the realm of education," Minister Czarnek said in a statement delivered in the Sejm, the lower house of the Polish Parliament, on Tuesday.

But the outcry appears to be directed at Czarnek himself, who has been struggling to rebut the allegations by asserting that “the grants were awarded to organisations that presented outstanding educational and education support projects.”

The minister found himself at the centre of a maelstrom for distributing the funds to various foundations that have links with the ruling party, state officials, the Catholic Church and scouts.

According to multiple news sources, half of the grant recipients had previously received negative evaluations from an expert board within the Ministry of Education.

Yet, Minister Czarnek overruled the experts’ verdicts and allotted the largest grants to the ruling party-tied Polish Great Project Foundation (PLN 5 million) as well as fledgling and negatively assessed Megaphone Foundation (PLN 4.5 million).

Commenting on the matter, Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said he will express his gratitude to Minister Czarnek and praised the official for his efforts to “support non-governmental organisations based on clear and transparent criteria.”

In the aftermath of the affair, the Left submitted a motion for a vote of no confidence against Minister Czarnek, though this has rather a slender chance of success as the ruling party, along with its junior coalition partners, still hold a modest but stable majority in the lower house of the Polish Parlament.

A recent survey commissioned by Poland’s Rzeczpospolita daily showed that some 55% of respondents would like to see Minister Czarnek ousted from office in the wake of the controversial allocation of the funds, especially amid an underfunded schooling system in Poland.

Similar allegations of funnelling funds to the ruling party’s associates have been made against two other ministers – Deputy Prime Minister and Culture and National Heritage Minister Piotr Gliński and the Minister of Sports, Kamil Bortniczuk.


Source: PAP, Rzeczpospolita, wp.pl, Oko.press