Poland’s PM fires Finance Minister Jacek Rostowski in major government reshuffle

WARSAW, Poland – Poland’s prime minister on Wednesday fired Finance Minister Jacek Rostowski in a major government reshuffle aimed at breathing new energy into Poland’s longest-serving team under democracy.

The pro-market government of Donald Tusk has guaranteed stability in Poland’s politics in recent years and has boasted of preserving economic growth at a time when European Union nations plunged into recession. But it has been recently losing support due to domestic policy decisions, budget cuts and allegations of corruption among members of Tusk’s Civic Platform party.

Tusk said Wednesday that the “need for new energy” was the key to the changes, which he had been planning for months.

He said he appointed “very gifted economist” Mateusz Szczurek to be the new head of state finance. Rostowski had been expected to go, as the face behind a number of unpopular reforms, chiefly concerning the pension system and budget cuts. The 38-year-old Szczurek was chief economist for ING Bank in Central and Eastern Europe, and a commentator on the Polish and regional economy.

“We need to have … an acceleration of economic growth and we need to act fast on putting EU funds to use,” Tusk said.

Tusk also fired Environment Minister Marcin Korolec, who is currently presiding over U.N. talks on preventing global warming that are entering their decisive stage in Warsaw. Korolec is keeping his role at the U.N. meeting and as Poland’s official for global climate talks, Tusk said.

The ministry’s foot-dragging on much-awaited regulations concerning exploration for shale gas and other fossil fuels seems to be behind Korolec’s dismissal. The government is placing great hopes on Poland’s shale gas deposits for energy security, but it still needs to approve legislation favourable for the industry.

Maciej Grabowski, formerly at the Finance Ministry, is the new head of the environment.

Other ministries with new leaders are sports, education, science and administration. The transport and regional development sectors were merged into one ministry, led by Elzbieta Bienkowska, who until now was regional development minister. Bienkowska was also raised to the rank of deputy prime minister.

Bienkowska said her aim will be to make Poland a modern and competitive EU nation by 2020.

President Bronislaw Komorowski is expected to give his approval, which is required before the new ministers can be sworn in.

Tusk, who took office in 2007, said the long-expected changes guarantee an infusion of new energy for the government. Tusk is halfway through his second term, but the Cabinet’s image has suffered from an unexpected budget deficit gap that led to spending cuts, a reform that raised the retirement age and from allegations that local Civic Platform leaders were offering jobs in return for support.

Tusk has previously carried out minor government reshuffles. Parliamentary elections are to be held in 2015.