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Monday, 26 November, 2001, 14:01 GMT
Insults fly in Polish land sale row
Andrzej Lepper
Andrzej Lepper: Frequent brushes with the law
Polish Foreign Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz has refused to accept an apology from the deputy speaker of parliament, who described him as a "scoundrel" in a row over land sales.

The deputy speaker, Andrzej Lepper, apologised only for criticising the foreign minister's father, a military counter-intelligence officer whom he accused of murdering Polish citizens.

Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz
Cimoszewicz: Described apology as 'mischievous'
Mr Lepper launched his attack on Mr Cimoszewicz on Friday, after learning that the foreign minister had suggested allowing foreigners to purchase farmland within three years of Poland's accession to the EU.

Poland wants special protection to prevent Germans and other Europeans buying up Polish property, fearing what some have described as "recolonisation".

Poland had been pressing for a 12-year ban on sales of farmland, but Mr Cimoszewicz offered in Brussels last week to shorten the timescale in cases where foreign farmers were cultivating Polish land.

Political row

He also suggested that foreigners should be able to buy holiday homes seven years after Poland joins the EU, instead of 18 years, as Warsaw had previously insisted.

Today, Poland needs peace and quiet and social accord, and not aggression and conflict

Prime Minister Leszek Miller
Mr Lepper, a farmers' leader who heads the Self Defence party, is only one of many politicians who have criticised Mr Cimoszewicz, but he has been the most outspoken.

The foreign minister's proposed concessions - an attempt to kick-start the troubled Polish negotiations over EU accession - has triggered the biggest political row in Poland since September's election.

Mr Lepper, however, has also found himself under attack for his use of the word "scoundrel", with a number of politicians calling for him to be dismissed from the post of deputy speaker.

His fate could be sealed at a session of the Polish parliament, the Sejm, on Wednesday.

'Bandit' slur

On Tuesday the ruling Democratic Left Alliance is expected to decide whether to back the calls for Mr Lepper to be stripped of the deputy speakership.

Prime Minister Leszek Miller criticised Mr Lepper on Monday, saying: "The government cannot accept this level of aggression because it gets transferred to all other spheres of our lives.

"Today, Poland needs peace and quiet and social accord, and not aggression and conflict."

Mr Lepper's Self Defence party is the third largest in parliament, with 53 seats out of 460.

It represents a farming lobby that fears losing out to Western competition after Poland joins the EU.

The outspoken Mr Lepper has frequently fallen foul of Poland's laws of libel and slander, and is currently appealing against a conviction for describing the Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski and two former ministers as bandits and idiots.

Mr Cimoszewicz said he thought Mr Lepper's apology was mischievous.

See also:

27 Sep 01 | Europe
The rise of Poland's new radicals
24 Sep 01 | Europe
Left victorious in Poland
08 Mar 01 | Europe
Prodi urges Polish reforms
14 Jun 01 | Europe
The candidate countries
15 Jan 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Poland
12 Feb 01 | Europe
Timeline: Poland
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