Ewa Kopacz [ˈɛva ˈkɔpatʃ] (born Ewa Lis; 3 December 1956) is a Polish politician and a former Prime Minister of Poland. Previously she was the Marshal of the Sejm, the first woman to have held the post. In addition, she was Minister of Health from November 2007 until November 2011. Kopacz has been a member of the Civic Platform since 2001. Kopacz became Prime Minister on 22 September 2014, succeeding Donald Tusk; she is the second woman to hold the office after Hanna Suchocka. Prior to entering politics, she was a pediatrician and a general practitioner. Her term ended on 16 November 2015.
Kopacz has been described as one of the leaders of the European Union, and was ranked as the world's 40th most powerful woman by Forbes magazine in 2015, placing her ahead of Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom and Ellen DeGeneres.
Ewa Kopacz was born in Skaryszew. She is the daughter of Mieczysław and Krystyna Lis. Her father was employed as a mechanic and her mother worked as a tailor. She was raised in the city of Radom, where she graduated from high school. In 1981 she graduated from the Medical University of Lublin. She did a residency in family medicine ("second-degree specialisation") with a focus on pediatrics ("first degree"). She worked at the clinics in the villages of Orońsko and Chlewiska, then town of Szydłowiec, where until 2001 she headed the local health care facility.
In the 1980s, Kopacz joined the United People's Party. She entered active politics after her late husband, Marek Kopacz, a prosecutor, stood unsuccessfully for parliament.
In the 1990s, Kopacz joined the Freedom Union and chaired the party's structures in the province of Radom. In the local elections in 1998, the regional council elected her as the councilor for the Masovian Voivodship.
In 2001, Kopacz left the Freedom Union to join the newly established Civic Platform political party. She was then elected to the Parliament in 2005, where she became head of the Health Committee. She worked as the chairperson of the Civic Platform structures of Masovia.
Sejm of the Republic of Poland
Kopacz was first elected as a deputy to the Sejm in 2001. She was subsequently re-elected in 2005, 2007 and 2011. In November 2011 she was elected the Marshal of the Sejm.
Minister of Health, 2007–2011
In 2009 Kopacz gained some degree of international fame by requesting pharmaceutical companies to present the advantages of swine flu vaccines, and demanding they take full responsibility for the side effects. She advised the Polish government to wait until proper testing had been done on the vaccine before investing in it, citing the fact that seasonal flu exceeds the current WHO criteria for pandemic every year but there has been no declaration of a pandemic of this much more dangerous seasonal flu. The Polish government refused to purchase the vaccine in question.
Pro-life activists in Poland had called for her excommunication after she was involved in arranging, in accordance with Polish law, an abortion for a 14-year-old girl, citing Canon 1398, which automatically sanctions anyone who allows the procedure to occur.
Prime Minister, 2014–2015
On 22 September 2014 Ewa Kopacz was sworn in as Prime Minister, after Donald Tusk resigned to take office as President of the European Council, and formed a cabinet. On 8 November 2014 she was sworn in as leader of the Civic Platform.
In her first major policy speech as prime minister, Kopacz promised more continuity in Poland’s foreign policy. She said her government would not stand for a break-up of neighboring Ukraine and would push for a greater U.S. military presence in Poland as a deterrent to possible Russian aggression. For domestic political reasons she decided to replace Foreign Minister Radosław Sikorski with her party rival Grzegorz Schetyna. Instead, she made Sikorski the speaker of the parliament.
At her first EU summit in October 2014, Kopacz managed to persuade the other Member States that Poland deserved lucrative concessions as part of a deal to cut European carbon emissions. After the European Commission opened infringement proceedings against Poland for violating particle pollution levels and was investigating reports that it has also exceeded limits on nitrogen oxides, Kopacz’s government declared 2015 to be the Year of Improving Air Quality and backed a proposal to empower regional authorities to clamp down on pollution from vehicles and from the burning of coal and wood in homes.
Poland’s 2014 local elections, a ballot expected to provide a solid show of support for Kopacz, saw her party instead attract fewer votes than the opposition for the first time in almost a decade.
As part of a cabinet reshuffle in June 2015, Kopacz purged Sikorski and three ministers from her government after the surprise defeat of President Bronislaw Komorowski, a party ally of Kopacz, in the presidential elections. She also demoted the official who oversees Poland's intelligence services. Instead, she appointed a group of relative political unknowns to her government in an effort to regain voters' trust and avoid defeat in the upcoming elections. The appointments included a former Olympic rower, Adam Korol, who was named sports and tourism minister, and Marian Zembala, a celebrated heart surgeon, who became the new minister for health.
In the national elections, Kopacz received 230 894 votes, which was the highest individual score in the country, and she received a mandate deputy of parliament VIII term. However, her party lost the elections. In accordance with the constitution, she resigned along with all other members of her cabinet at the first sitting of the newly elected Sejm. She remained in office until her successor Beata Szydło was sworn in on 16 November 2015.
When Tusk’s sister Sonia suffered a stroke in 2005, Kopacz became involved in her treatment, travelling to hospitals around Poland with her.