Poland Yesterday: 2019 in five newsbites

Photo: Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland
As 2019 comes to an end, we take a look back at the first half of the year through five newsbites, from the day US Vice President Mike Pence came to town and when Poles turned out in record numbers for the European Parliament elections to the landing of the ‘Mole’ on Mars, the emergence of a football star and Marta Krupińska’s rise at Google.
World leaders attended US-led summit in Warsaw

Amidst rising global political tension, delegates from more than 60 countries gathered in Warsaw in February for a controversial conference on Peace and Security in the Middle East. The event was instigated by the Trump administration but only given token acknowledgement by key EU countries. Participants from Middle East countries, EU member states and the US discussed the conflicts in Syria and Yemen, humanitarian problems, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, terrorism, and energy security. Polish Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz also met with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to discuss security and foreign policy, specifically the enlargement of the US military presence in Poland and energy security regarding the Russian-German gas pipeline. Pompeo re-asserted Poland’s position as one of the US’s closest European allies, especially in defence and security. Just before the conference, the Polish government purchased 20 US-made HIMARS rocket launchers and US Vice President Mike Pence said the US would “stand behind Poland.” Iran was not invited to the conference and Pence urged European countries to withdraw from the nuclear deal between Iran and world powers. The UK, France and Germany, however, continued their efforts to facilitate trade with Iran.

Pre-polling was found wanting during European Parliament elections

The 2019 European Parliament election in Poland will be remembered as an election of surprises. In May, a record voter turnout of 45.68% was registered this year, which was nearly double the amount in 2014. The vote was polarised between the two major parties along metro-rural lines, with the Law and Justice party (Prawo i Sprawiedliwość: PiS) winning 56.3% of the vote in towns and villages, while the opposition European Coalition (Koalicja Europejska: KE) took out 51% of the vote in the larger cities. But perhaps the most important result that had the pollsters scratching their heads was the overwhelming victory of PiS over Koalicja. PiS won 45.38% of the vote compared to Koalicja’s 38.47%, amounting to an almost seven-point gap. This result was in stark contrast to the pre-polling average data for May that had PiS on 37.9% and Koalicja on 36.9%, although the last IBRiS and IPSOS surveys had pushed the gap out to 3.6 and 5 percentage points respectively. In fact, five surveys had even placed Koalicja ahead of PiS in the lead up to the election.

The ‘Mole’ landed on Mars
Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech

One mission by NASA’s space probe insight on Mars was one giant leap for Poland’s developing space industry. In cooperation with several companies and research centres, Polish company Astronika developed a soil digging mechanism dubbed “Mole” that is part of the HP3 (Heat Flow and Physical Properties Probe) device. The “Mole” is designed to drill 5 metres into the surface of Mars to measure the heat flow of the planet’s interior for the first time in history. With a little Polish flag fixed on its exterior among other national flags, the HP3 started operating on Mars in January 2019 and sends data to NASA. Bartosz Kędziora, Management Board Member of Astronika, said, “our participation in the insight mission proved that Astronika is among the first league of producers of technologically advanced instruments for planetary missions. I’m glad that for the 100th anniversary of Poland regaining independence, thanks to us, this little Polish flag has successfully landed on Mars.” However, this endeavour proved to be more challenging than anticipated. NASA reported that the device was having trouble breaking through the outer layer of the Red Planet due to its ‘alien’ soil properties.

Piątek hit the scene as an up-and-coming football star

At the start of 2019, Polish striker Krzysztof Piątek joined AC Milan for ca. €35m, replacing Argentine superstar Gonzalo Higuain. The 24-year-old signed a deal until 2023, after becoming the first Serie A player since 1949-50 to score eight goals in his first six top-flight football games. Piątek scored 19 goals in 21 games for his former club Genoa after joining in July 2018. So far, Piątek has scored a total of 15 goals in 37 games while wearing the Milan uniform. From Marco van Basten to George Weah and Andriy Shevchenko, Milan has historically reared top strikers, and it seems the young Polish star will be next in line to earn a spot in the hall of fame. 

Google welcomed a new leader in the UK
Marta Krupinska, Head of Google for Startups UK

In February, Google unveiled the serial tech entrepreneur Marta Krupińska as the new Head of Google for Startups UK. Krupińska oversees projects at London’s Google for Startups Campus in Shoreditch which reopened in March 2019 after a complete renovation. Her top priority is building an inclusive ecosystem. “It’s about creating a tech community that represents the community in which we live,” said Krupińska. Following her success as the co-founder of the global fintech company Azimo, which raised over $70m in VC funds and attracted over 1 million users, she also co-founded a debt prevention platform called Freeup. As a prominent figure on the UK startup scene, Krupińska was recognised by Forbes 30 under 30. “We must ensure [tech companies are] sustainable, fair and diverse, and build a world in which we will all want to live,” said Krupinska. “I’m so excited to lead Google for startups in the UK and use the vast resources of both Google and London’s tech scene to make this a reality.” 

PTnewsBites: latest news about Poland at a micro-level mixed with the bigger nationwide trends, with something extra on the side – all bundled up in one weekly bite-size news package. All Bison. No Bull.

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Written by: Poland Today Team