Polish PM reshuffles his Cabinet ahead of key EU visit

Poland’s new prime minister reshuffled his Cabinet on Tuesday, ousting the controversial ministers of foreign affairs, defense and the environment before heading off to Brussels for talks with top European Union officials.

Mateusz Morawiecki, who became prime minister in December, made the changes as he attempts to avert possible EU sanctions on Poland. EU leaders have raised a series of concerns over Poland’s changes to its justice system and over government-approved logging in an old forest.

European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker said the EU was “not in war with Poland” but needed the government to be involved in a dialogue with the bloc.

Morawiecki seemed to have persuaded Poland’s most powerful politician, the ruling party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski, that the ministers most criticized by EU leaders and by the opposition should go.

“We are not and we don’t want to be a dogmatic, doctrinal government, or a government of socialist or neo-liberal extremities,” Morawiecki said Tuesday during a swearing-in ceremony for the new ministers at the Presidential Palace.

He said he wants Poland to have an important role in a strong Europe.

The composition of the new government suggests that Poland is attempting a more conciliatory approach to the EU.

The removals of Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski and Environment Minister Jan Szyszko, whose decision to cut trees in the pristine Bialowieza Forest has led to a procedure against Poland at the European Court of Justice, shows a will to mend fences within the EU. They were respectively replaced by Jacek Czaputowicz, the deputy foreign minister, and by a government economic expert, Henryk Kowalczyk.

The new defense minister is Mariusz Blaszczak, the former interior minister, replacing a minister blamed for abruptly cancelling a deal to buy French-made helicopters.

Morawiecki kept Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro, the author of the sweeping reform of the justice system, in place in a sign that he backs the changes.

New finance and development ministers were also appointed as the jobs were vacated by Morawiecki when he became prime minister.

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