Poland halts plans to give Hungary precious manuscript

A valuable 15th-century manuscript that was due to be given to Hungary looks set to stay in Poland following a decision to “freeze” a draft law providing for the hand-over.

The law will now not be presented to parliament, prompting speculation that this is due to Poland's disapproval of the Hungarian government's close ties with Russia. 

The proposal had caused controversy after Poland's ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party said it would present legislation enabling the government to take possession of the manuscript for the sum of PLN 25 million (EUR 5.5 million) and give it to Hungary, which is led by Prime Minister Viktor Orban, a close political ally of Law and Justice.

The Fakt tabloid reported in February that the plan had "created a storm" with historians, local government officials and senators opposing the move.

The manuscript, which is currently in the collection of the Torun public library, was elaborately crafted by Naldus Naldius, a writer and painter from Florence, during time he spent serving at the court of Hungary's King Matthias Corvinus. 

Fakt reported that the idea by PiS MPs to give the manuscript to Hungary was intended to reciprocate a decision by Hungary to hand over last year a gilded suit of armour that once belonged to Sigismund II Augustus, a 16th-century Polish king. The gift would have accentuated the close ties between the two nations and governments.

Rzeczpospolita wrote in its Monday edition that the bill had gone before the Culture and Media Committee of the Sejm, the lower house of parliament. The Sejm's website reported that the bill had been sent for its first reading by the committee.

The newspaper asked the committees chair, Piotr Babinetz, who had also proposed the bill, when it would be processed by the Sejm.

"I suppose the Sejm will not deal with the bill," Babinetz told the paper. Asked if that meant the bill had been withdrawn, he replied: "I think it could be described as permanently frozen." 

The daily wrote that this means it may be shelved until the end of the government's term. 

Rzeczpospolita noted that PiS MPs had not explained the reasons behind the bill’s demise. 

"It can be supposed that this is a decision by Deputy Prime Minister (and PiS leader - PAP) Jaroslaw Kacyznski, who has recently criticised the prime minister of Hungary for his position on the war in Ukraine," the paper wrote.