An Unprecedented Mediation In Poland

A few days ago the Polish media were savouring the news that the court had appointed a “professional mediator” in a lawsuit between Janusz Kaczmarek, former Minister of the Interior and Administration versus Jaroslaw Kaczynski former Prime Minister, now the chairman of the political party Law and Justice (PiS). Kaczmarek sued Kaczynski (civil case on infringement of personal goods) after being called „a sleeping agent” (communist agent, I presume). Such a statement is an insult in Poland (see my article onóbelA1.cfm ).

To get the picture you must know that Kaczmarek was one of Kaczynski’s men in the government. He then left the government in July 2007 after being accused of impeding an important prosecution. At that time announced that he would take steps against Kaczynski.

The media repeated over and over again that it is an unprecedented case, mediation being mainly used in family cases. This statement is now living its own life in the media. Titles appeared in the Internet saying “Kaczmarek and Kaczynski need a mediator just like a divorcing couple”. Kaczmarek even made a joke saying he didn’t remember when it was that the two of them were happily married.

Is this mediation really unprecedented? Considering that the number of court-referred civil cases being mediated in 2007 in the whole of Poland totals 1500 (excluding commercial cases and family cases) it hardly seems a precedent to me. It may be one of the very few first mediation cases involving top figures of the Polish political arena.

According to the Polish law, both parties must say yes to mediation. Kaczmarek declares he is willing to mediate, should it save the budget some money. But he does have a few conditions: Kaczynski must apologize and donate 10 thousand zlotys (about 4 thousand US dollars) to charity. Kaczynski has not yet given his answer.

What will be the end of the story?

Unfortunately the fact that Kaczmarek gave such preliminary conditions, especially the first one, destroyed the chances of mediation. Kaczmarek is certainly aware of that, knowing his ex-friend. On the other hand he clearly seized the opportunity to self-present himself like a conciliation-seeking man.

As far as the public image is concerned, Kaczynski – who is not the most admired politician at the moment, can still win if he plays it right. The question is: what kind of personal image does he want to give? Which social groups he is going to target before the next elections? And what kind of behavior in a critical situation they expect from their leader-to-be? Answers to these questions might suggest making a radical shift in his current tactics.

To me this case is significant for a couple of reasons, despite the fact that there will probably be no mediation between Kaczmarek and Kaczynski.

Firstly, it is a clear signal that from now on the politicians will have to watch what they say. You describe yourself as a conciliatory and win-win solution-seeking political partner? Prove it now. You said you wanted time and taxpayers money-saving solutions? We will see.

Secondly, because of the standing of the gentlemen involved everybody in Poland has heard about such a possibility of solving conflicts. I am not talking about the specialists, but normal people who will be … our clients.

Thirdly, with a little help of conflict-solution specialists, people will know and understand how mediation really works.

Unfortunately, it is most probably not from their leaders that the Poles will learn how to solve their conflicts peacefully…

When I first heard the news about this case, I felt almost sorry I hadn’t got it. On the other hand it may be for the better. Had the court referred this case to me, I wouldn’t be allowed to comment on it!


Anna M. Wróbel

Anna M. Wróbel Anna is a member of the Polish Center for Mediation. She is an active mediator, negotiator and facilitator with wide experience of the Polish market and business environment. Anna's areas of expertise include group & organizational conflicts, multicultural conflicts, international & home business, family, automotive industry and telecommunications.… MORE >

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