Poles are Optimists - One Year after joining European Union
Poland is doing very well in EU, much better than expected! This is a pleasant surprise since Poles were worried that the condition of Polish economy will deteriorate after joining the European Union but this did not happen, just the opposite. Even CNN reported that the Polish president, Kwasniewski praised the year in European Union as one of the best in Polish history.
Read the series of our articles about Poland versus European Union. There was a concern that Poles may vote against joining EU in May 04 -
Referendum Outcome - Poland vs EU, but majority of Poles went to the polls and voted "yes" - in spite of some skepticism and worries.
Poles changed their perception of EU the most positively from all the EU countries! So called Index of economical satisfaction shows that Poles are 41% more satisfied than the average Europeans. In general the members of new countries that joined the EU last year (2004) are more happy that the residents of the old Europe. There is a concern that French may vote against the European Constitution, one of the main reason - they are against plans that Turkey will join it soon. The residents of the "Old Europe" countries are somewhat worried that their wealth will be compromised with the residents of poorer countries.
Summary of what happened in Poland during this passing year (May 04- May 05):
The most satisfied are probably Polish farmers. The worst worries did not realized - instead of being flooded with cheap subsidized Western European food - Polish food went abroad - which helped Polish farmers a lot - although it increased the prices for the average consumer. But the effect of price increase seems to be inevitable for any new country joined EU. Just before joining union consumers in all Eastern European countries were buying big amounts of food products (sugar, salt), construction materials, even houses and apartments.
Read about the pessimistic predictions from the time before accession to EU in the article
Polish Agriculture (Farming) and European Union .
Polish export, especially for food products to EU countries increased at about 40%. It is interesting that also Polish export to countries which do not belong to EU - Russia, Ukraine, Norway increased. One of the reason - cheap and efficient labor. The quality of Polish products is getting better as well as the work efficiency.
Polish currency (zloty) became very strong, it is stronger not only to the US dollar but also to the Euro. Because of that our national debt decreased at about 20 bln zlotys (1 zloty is equal ~ 3.2 USD dollar) - since the value of the debt is calculated with respect to foreign currencies rather than to the zloty. Thanks to that Poles did not need drastically reduce their spendings - so called Hausner plan - to reduce expenses - is unnnecessary by now.
The economic growth was very strong - at 6.9% in the first quarter, the next two quarters were also good, only the last quarter was worse - only 3%. But Poland should keep better growth than 3% since we are poorer than Germany or France, so we need more growth to be able to level down the economical differences. The inflation is now about 3.4% but it should slow down to 1% very soon.
Poland are not a net-payer but rather the recipient of European Union. Structural funds from EU are used to build the infrastructure, roads, environmental protection or to fight against unemployment. Last year we received about 1 bln Euro more from EU budget than we paid there, until the end of April of this year (2005) we received over 680 mln of Euro.
Poles were able to work legally in some other countries with no restrictions, among them is Great Britain, Ireland and Sweden. But they rarely chose the permanent immigration. If seasonal workers are included in the tally, 450,000 Poles have worked in other EU member states in the 12 months since Poland joined the bloc on May 1 last year. 73,5 thousands Poles work in Great Britain - Poles are the biggest single group since Poland is the biggest country which joined EU in 2004. But if we would compare the amount of the workers in GB as a percentage of the population - Slovakia and Lithuania are ahead of us.
Poles can also study in other countries with no restrictions and no fees. This is a great potential for the youth - they can easily learn foreign language, adopt to foreign conditions, gain experience, study abroad and eventually work and live there for some time.
Poland is also proud of its success in international political arena. Poles are proud of helping the Ukraine to open to European Union and vice-versa.
Read more about Ukrainian problems Ukraine after Election - History of Patriotism & Division
All the pessimistic scenarios did not materialize - there were no any massive bankruptcies among Polish small and middle-sized businesses, foreigners did not start buying properties in Poland as well as Poles did not start the massive exodus abroad in search for the jobs. Poland did not become flooded with foreign subsidized food products which could kill our farming. Poland did not become the net-payer to the EU.
Of course not all problems were solved during this one year - unemployment is still about 18%
(read about unemployment in Poland), there is some brain drain observed. For instance in Hungary 450 doctors of medicine left, this is also a problem in Poland but not to such great extend. It also seems that the EU system works the best for young industrious people. Poland also need more foreign investment, acceleration of privatization , especially in big industrial factories and mines. In order to attract a foreign investment - Poland need to be seen as reliable and stable economically and financially country, easy to do business with.
Poles and Central Europeans gained more confidence, they feel like full-fledged citizens of Europe.
written by Jagoda Urban-Klaehn, May 1st, 2005 (article #286)
References: Eubusiness, Gazeta Wyborcza
Check all the articles about Poland in international political scene, and Poland and other EE countries versus European Union.
Europe : A History, bestseller written by famous British historian Norman Davies
Below is a links to the book explaining European Union to a common person
The European Union: A Very Short Introduction
by John Pinder
check also One of the best one-volume histories of Poland in English:
Heart of Europe: A Short History of Poland (Oxford Paperbacks)
by Norman Davies
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