I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

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Focus on Poland

Wiktor Osiatyński Poland appears a prosperous country. New construction sites loom over the cities and the price of apartments soars. The roads are full of Western cars. New shopping malls are packed with customers. There is steady economic growth and exports are booming, despite the very strong Polish currency. EU accession has turned out to be a great success. European subsidies and investments flood in. The opening of Western markets to goods and workers from Poland has cut unemployment, which was close to 20 per cent before 2005. After accession nearly two million people left Poland. The government uses these figures as proof of its success. However, a visitor who reads Polish newspapers and watches TV would be surprised by the contrasts between what one sees on the streets and what one reads or hears in the media. The dominant tone is one of complaint, anger and resentment. The gap between observable progress and the perception of reality is a wide one. It is as if the Poles do not appreciate what they have achieved during eighteen years of transition to the market and democracy. In fact, many people, both in the authorities and the media, claim these years were wasted and that Poland needs a new beginning. The goal of Law and Justice (PiS), the right-wing party that won both parliamentary and presidential elections in autumn 2005, is nothing less than the creation of a “Fourth Republic” (the first having existed before the partitions of Poland in the eighteenth century, the second between the two wars and the third since 1989). The PiS formed a coalition with a populist peasant party, Samoobrona (Self Defence) and the radical right-wing Catholic League of Polish Families (LPR). Step by step, the coalition has consolidated its power over all the independent institutions of the state (the Council of Radio and Television, the Ombudsman for Citizens’ Rights, the Central Bank; it has also packed the Constitutional Court with its appointees). In July 2006, the twin brother of President Lech Kaczyński, Jarosław, became prime minister. With support for the PiS declining, the brothers have became hostages of their radical allies, who incessantly increase their demands. Even the notorious scandals which exposed Samoobrona members as having been involved in trading public office and sexual harassment (and probably also rape) did not shake the coalition. The government has an active right-wing agenda, focusing on decommunisation and lustration…

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