Poland picks new foreign minister in reshuffle

AP News
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Posted: Sep 19, 2014 6:46 AM
Poland picks new foreign minister in reshuffle

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland's prime minister-designate on Friday named a new foreign minister to replace Radek Sikorski, who has been vocal internationally on the conflict in Ukraine.

Grzegorz Schetyna, a 51-year-old former interior minister who recently headed the parliamentary commission for foreign affairs, was tapped as Sikorski's successor.

Some analysts had said it would be best for Sikorski to remain foreign minister to give continuity to Poland's foreign policy at a time of armed conflict in neighboring Ukraine.

But Ewa Kopacz, who takes over from Donald Tusk as prime minister, announced the change as she revealed the makeup of her Cabinet that includes many of Tusk's ministers and some replacements.

Addressing a news conference, Kopacz didn't say why Sikorski was being replaced, but stressed that Schetyna ensured responsibility and continuity in foreign policy.

Analyst Anna Materska-Sosnowska says Schetyna will be conciliatory and soft spoken, in contrast with Sikorski, known for some internationally controversial remarks. Being caught on a secretly recorded tape using foul language might have also contributed to Sikorski's change of job, she said.

The new government will serve only one year, until elections next fall.

Materska-Sosnowska said the team's main task is to improve the ruling coalition's ratings and ensure electoral victory.

Kopacz said that Sikorski would replace her as parliament speaker, a prominent role domestically. Parliament speaker is the second most important figure in Poland after the president, but lacks the international clout of foreign minister.

Sikorski has been an architect and a strong supporter of neighboring Ukraine's attempts to build closer ties with the West and has been a forceful critic of Russian aggression there.

Kopacz raised the status of Defense Minister Tomasz Siemoniak to also be deputy prime minister, because "today's times require a strong army," in a clear reference to the conflict in Ukraine.

Tusk stepped down as prime minister after being chosen to head the European Council, starting Dec. 1.