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Poland: Time abroad, in finance seen as assets of PM nominee

By: MONIKA SCISLOWSKA, Associated Press
December 7, 2017 Updated: December 7, 2017 at 4:04 pm
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photo - In this Dec. 5, 2017 photo Poland's Prime Minister Beata Szydlo, front left and Finance Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, front right, attend a parliament session in Warsaw, Poland.  Poland's conservative ruling party said Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017, that Prime Minister Szydlo, has resigned and will be replaced by Morawiecki.(AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)
In this Dec. 5, 2017 photo Poland's Prime Minister Beata Szydlo, front left and Finance Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, front right, attend a parliament session in Warsaw, Poland. Poland's conservative ruling party said Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017, that Prime Minister Szydlo, has resigned and will be replaced by Morawiecki.(AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski) 

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland Finance Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, a former banker, would bring to the office of prime minister economic and international experience seen as assets while the country faces criticism from other European Union members for policies that have aroused concerns of democratic backsliding.

Morawiecki, 49, is widely considered one of the Polish government's most competent Cabinet members and has the trust of ruling party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski even though he is a relative newcomer who became Law and Justice member only after he joined the government.

As minister of finance and economic development, he has been given credit for overseeing an economy that has boomed in the two years since Law and Justice assumed power, with growth at over 4 percent and unemployment at a record low of under 7 percent.

The question remains if Morawiecki will take direction from the powerful Kaczynski as outgoing Prime Minister Beata Szydloto did or try to pursue an independent path. His background in many ways makes him an unusual choice for the populist Law and Justice.

Before joining the government, Morawiecki ran the bank BZ WBK, which is controlled by Spain's Santander Group. The ruling party on whose behalf he will be leading Poland's government seeks to limit foreign influence and global capitalism, and has increased state spending on welfare programs.

Morawiecki is the son of a prominent pro-democracy activist of the 1980s who is now a lawmaker, Kornel Morawiecki. His political activity began in an independent students' union and his father's anti-communist organization, Fighting Solidarity. For his activism, he says he was arrested and beaten by communist security forces.

He studied history in his hometown of Wroclaw in southwest of Poland, graduated from the Business and Administration Department of the Wroclaw University of Science and Technology and obtained an MBA degree from Wroclaw University of Economics. He later studied at Central Connecticut State University and also in Germany, Switzerland and at Northwestern University in the U.S. state of Illinois.

With his foreign studies and professional experience, Morawiecki, who speaks English and German, could be better prepared than Szydlo to represent the country abroad as Poland faces off against the EU over a proposed overhaul of the judiciary and other policies seen as anti-democratic.

He was on the government team that negotiated the financial terms of Poland's 2004 accession to the European Union and then went into the banking sector eventually serving as the chairman of the board of managers for the BZ WBK.

He was an adviser to former Prime Minister Donald Tusk, which apparently did not block his political rise even though Law and Justice considers Tusk a foe.

Before taking on his government position in the fall of 2015 he served as honorary consul for Ireland.

Earlier this year, he became the first finance minister from Poland to be invited to a meeting of G-20 ministers in Germany.

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