WARSAW, Poland -- Poland's authorities are reminding citizens they can rummage forests for firewood to heat their homes as energy costs continue to soar.
Opponents of the country's populist government called the firewood reminder a sign that it's fumbling the economy.
Inflation in Poland is now at nearly 14%, with fuel prices surging to over 8 zlotys ($1.87) a liter. The government of Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki blames Russia's war in Ukraine for driving up costs, calling it “Putinflacja” — or “Putinflation.”
But critics of Morawiecki's party, Law and Justice, say the war is only part of the picture. They argue costs have been driven up by seven years of the ruling party's social spending policies, including cash handouts to families with children and the elderly.
Billions in European Union funds could help ease the crunch for many, but they continue to be held up over an ongoing squabble over Poland's judiciary. The chief of the EU's executive arm, Ursula von der Leyen, was in Warsaw Thursday to tell Polish leaders that the money will flow only once Poland reforms its judiciary.
“After yesterday’s visit, I can say that theoretically we are billionaires, but in practice we will all be collecting brushwood,” said Donald Tusk, the leader of the largest opposition party, the pro-market Civic Platform, on Friday. “Because this seems to be the latest idea to prevent Polish poverty that Law and Justice has prepared for all of us.”
The public has long been allowed to purchase branches left after logging in state forests.
“Collecting branches for fuel is allowed at all times, with the consent of the forester,” Edward Siarka, the deputy minister of climate and environment, reminded last week.
He said more people are asking how to go about obtaining firewood following the start of the war in Ukraine and the energy market turmoil.