The Poles and EU enlargement
Warsaw. Photo: flickr/MadPole


Key facts about Poland

Population: 38 million.

Area: 312,700 sq km.

Capital: Warsaw (1.7 million inhabitants)

Other major cities: Kraków 757,000, Łódź 753,000, Poznań, 560,000, Gdańsk 450,000, Szczecin 408,000, Gdynia 250,000, Bydgoszcz 361,000, Lublin 351,000, Katowice with a population of 317,000 is part of the Silesian metropolitan area –Poland’s industrial heartland – total population 1.97 million.

GDP per capita: GDP per head: US$16,310 (purchasing power parity).

President: Lech Kaczyński





He is the twin brother of Jarosław Kaczyński, the leader of the main opposition party, PiS (the Law and Justice Party).

Next presidential election:  Due in October 2010

Prime Minister: Donald Tusk (PO – Platforma Obywatelska – Civic Platform).  The Prime Minster chairs the Council of Ministers.

Poland and the EU :

Date of Application:  8 April 1994

Date of Joining EU: 1 May 2004

Date of Lisbon Treaty ratification: Both houses of Parliament (Sejm and Senate) have backed ratification. However, the President, whose signature is necessary to finalise the process, has said he won’t sign the Treaty until after the proposed second Irish referendum.

Date of Poland joining the euro: 1 January 2012 – providing Poland meets the convergence criteria – is the government’s target. However, several ministers have indicated (in February 2009) that the date may be delayed because of the financial crisis. President Lech Kaczyński, a vigorous opponent of an early joining date, said on 24 February 2009 that euro entry should not occur before 2014: “Sooner or later we have to swap the zloty with the euro because it is our commitment taken when we joined the EU. I speak about it without enthusiasm.”

EU Presidency: 1 July 2011 (following from Hungary).


The economic impact of EU accession

65 per cent of Poles support Poland’s membership in the EU. 73 per cent of Poles are of the opinion that Poland has benefited from EU accession. That is a shift of opinion – in the autumn 2002 Eurobarometer only 48 per cent were declared in favour of EU membership.

In 2003, the year before EU accession, the unemployment rate in Poland was 20 per cent. The inflow of foreign direct investment (FDI) was just 3.7 billion euros.

Following accession the economy boomed. FDI reached 12.8 billion euros in 2007 and an estimated 13 billion in 2008.  The recent growth in FDI – and Poland’s overall attractiveness to foreign capital – has much to do with Poland’s entry into the EU, which has significantly reduced the risk of investment. Business conditions have become more stable and predictable. Foreign investment has helped Poland become a leader in the production of LCD screens, household goods, and a major exporter of cars – creating 1.2 million new jobs in the process. By the end of 2008, four-and-a-half years later, unemployment had fallen to less than 10 per cent. In its analysis of the impact of EU accession on the Polish economy four years on, UKIE (the Office of the Committee on European Integration) reported a nominal increase of 58 per cent in salaries.

Economic growth reached 6.5 per cent in 2007, the second consecutive year in which the growth rate exceeded 6 per cent. It slowed to 5.5 per cent in 2008 and it will be no more than 1.7 per cent in 2009. Unemployment may reach 12 per cent.  Poland has not seen the level of high growth experienced by the Baltic states. Poland’s economy has proved less vulnerable to the current global economic crisis, however, having avoided high inflation, and high deficits.

The medium-and long-term economic impact of accession is, to some extent, tied to Poland’s growing capacity to take advantage of EU structural and pre-accession funds. Transfers from the EU budget in 2007 amounted to more than 8 billion euros, more than 2 per cent of Polish GDP. The availability of EU funds has had a significant impact on the development of the Polish agricultural sector and on potential investments in the country’s transport infrastructure.

The economic migration of Polish citizens to “old” member states has also proved an important factor for economic growth. Estimates of Poles working legally in the European Economic Area – mainly in the United Kingdom, Germany and Ireland – range between 900,000 and 1.1 million. Access to foreign labour markets has indirectly helped reduce unemployment. Polish employers, afraid to lose their most-qualified personnel, have begun to raise salaries. Remittances from aboard have also helped spur economic growth. In 2007, according to the National Bank of Poland, remittances exceeded 20 billion zlotys – more than the value of FDI in 2003.

Public opinion polls show that Poles who were working abroad are increasingly willing to return home – partly prompted by the economic crises in Ireland and the UK. In addition, the number of people who say they are not interested in moving abroad to work has increased from 53 per cent in 2003 to 76 per cent in 2007.

Poland’s accession to the EU has also accelerated the modernization of the agricultural sector, spurring the development of rural areas. CAP instruments have become a financial incentive to future investment, changing the countryside and allowing Polish farming to play to its comparative advantage. Together with CAP payments, access to the single market helped boost Polish farmers’ income by 13.7 per cent in 2007. In 2008 farmers’ incomes fell by 16 per cent. (Eurostat figures)

However, Polish farmers, once the social group most sceptical about Poland’s EU accession, are among those to have benefited from it the most.

Poland’s entry into Schengen in December 2007 was the culmination of a process which required changes in legislation, administrative procedures, and investment. In the first months of 2008, Poland’s participation in the EU’s common visa policy resulted in greater obstacles for Belarusians, Ukrainians and Russians travelling to Poland. These, for the most part, were to prove temporary. The benefits of Schengen membership include the elimination of queues at the borders with Lithuania, Germany, Slovakia and the Czech Republic; cross-border trade has been speeded up.

Poland’s EU membership has the potential to have a significant impact on the development of transport infrastructure, with partial financing provided through EU cohesion and regional funds. Between 2004 and 2006, the transport sector was due to receive funding of approximately 4.8 billion euros. Given the over-complex tendering procedures and planning laws which the Government is attempting to change, most of the projects are still being implemented.

Poland’s membership in the EU has also helped strengthen Warsaw’s hand in relations with non-EU countries. One example is the case of the Russian embargo (as Poles claimed, politically motivated) on meat imports from Poland. It was largely thanks to the backing of the other Member States and the EU institutions – but also to Poland’s blocking of the EU-Russia partnership and cooperation agreement – that Moscow decided to lift the embargo in late 2007.

On the other hand, EU accession has given a new dimension to Poland’s commitment to further enlargement and its contribution to the EU’s neighbourhood policy. The Polish government has worked to try to win support among its EU partners for a European perspective for Ukraine. Through joint initiatives such as the Eastern Partnership (with Sweden) Poland has begun to have an impact on EU external policy.

Support for further EU enlargement is 69 per cent in Poland, according to the autumn 2008 Eurobarometer poll. This is a slight fall from the 74 per cent recorded in the spring 2008 Eurobarometer. This is still one of the highest results in the EU – second only to Slovenia. Only 15 per cent of Poles oppose further enlargement

The spring 2008 Eurobarometer gives a detailed breakdown of Polish support; 83 per cent of those between 15-24 years of age were in favour of further enlargement.  Among those aged 25-39 support is 75 per cent. Support is lowest among the older people; only 53 per cent of those over 55 are in favour of future enlargement.

Support for further EU enlargement is also linked to education levels, ranging from 57 per cent among those having only completed primary education to 76 per cent among university graduates. Those most in favour of enlargement also include pupils and students (84 per cent), managers (83 per cent) and urban residents (78 per cent). Those least in favour include pensioners (54 per cent) and residents of rural areas (63 per cent).


Poland and the Western Balkans

Support for the accession of individual countries of the Western Balkans is significantly higher than in the EU-27 average.

  Poland EU-27
Overall support for future enlargement 74 per cent 47 per cent

Support for the EU accession of:

Croatia
Republic of Macedonia
Albania  
Bosnia and Herzegovina  
Montenegro
Serbia
Kosovo


68 per cent
53 per cent
48 per cent
52 per cent
52 per cent
50 per cent
44 per cent


52 per cent
40 per cent
34 per cent
40 per cent
41 per cent
41 per cent
34 per cent

Source: Standard Eurobarometer 69, Spring 2008.

The wide support in Poland for future enlargement stems to a large extent from Poles’ first-hand positive experience.

The conviction that all former countries of the communist bloc should return to Europe is another reason behind Polish support for enlargement. Several other factors are at play. It is in Poland’s interest to maintain support for the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), which has benefited Polish farmers over the past 5 years. Given the high percentage of people in the Western Balkans employed in the agricultural sector, Polish policy-makers assume that the greater the number of new member states, the greater the need – and the political support – for the CAP.  A 2008 study, The Western Balkans and European Integration, by UKIE and OSW (the Centre for Eastern Studies), argues that: “the region would gain in importance as a market for Polish goods… increasing export of agricultural and food products from Poland to the Balkans.”

Future accession of Western Balkan states to the EU may also mean increased competition for Polish farmers in some sectors. In the short run, Poland is not likely to lose CAP funding to the countries of the Western Balkans, the study concludes.

The same goes for EU regional and cohesion funds. Given the scale of the “big-bang” enlargement of 2004, the cost of future enlargement(s) to include the Western Balkans will not involve a significant cost for Poland, which will certainly continue as a net beneficiary of EU funds at least till 2020. The UKIE/OSW study of EU enlargement to the Balkans estimates that:

Poland will finance about 3% of 7,547 billion euros, which constitutes the cost of the enlargement. This amounts to 226.42 million euros a year which is less than 1/10 of Poland’s national contribution paid to the EU budget. It is worth mentioning that the cost incurred by Poland due to the accession of Bulgaria and Romania is similar.”

Another area where the interests of Polish and West Balkan states converge – or promise to converge – is the diversification of energy supplies (and transit) in Europe. Support for new energy transit routes, such as the Nabucco gas pipeline, is high on both the West Balkan and the Polish agenda.

On 26 February 2008, the Polish Government (Council of Ministers) recognised the independence of the Republic of Kosovo. As an official of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated, “Recognition of Kosovo’s independence is an expression of Poland’s solidarity with the Euro-Atlantic community.” However, given the critical view of the President – he did not support the recognition decision – Poland does not have a diplomatic mission in Pristina.

An opinion survey conducted by market researchers SMG/KRC found that 56 per cent of Poles were in favour of Kosovo’s independence, 23 per cent were against, and 21 per cent were either undecided or declined to comment. (The survey was conducted by telephone on a sample of 1,000 adult Poles between 22 and 24 February 2008).

Apart from Kosovo, Polish foreign policy has not engaged intensively in the Western Balkans over the past year. Overall, the Western Balkans is not a major foreign policy priority for Poland, especially when compared to Warsaw’s diplomatic initiatives towards its eastern neighbours.  Poland has become the chief advocate of Ukraine’s European vocation and a champion of democratic reforms in Belarus.

An analysis of the official statements of the Presidential and Prime Minister’s office as well as interviews with members of the Polish and European Parliament reveal the existence of a broad consensus,” writes Piotr Kaźmierkiewicz of the Institute of Public Affairs. “EU enlargement is generally in Poland’s interest. However given the country’s limited clout within the EU for realising its agenda, all efforts need to be deployed for stabilising Poland’s eastern neighbourhood (Belarus and Ukraine). As a tactical choice Poland will not play a leading role as the advocate of any Southeast European country to the same level that it has vowed to pull its weight behind the aspirations of Ukraine.”

Poland’s contribution to the debate on West Balkan enlargement is limited. It does not feature prominently in domestic politics, the Polish media, or in Polish contributions to international forums. On the other hand, Poland has relatively significant military and police presence in the Balkans. In Kosovo there are 285 Polish soldiers (KFOR), 108 policemen and some civilian experts (EULEX). In Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) there are 200 Polish soldiers (EUFOR Althea). Poland also participates in EUPM (police officers, and civilian experts).

One of the reasons behind the relative lack of high-level political and diplomatic engagement is Poland’s extremely low trade turnover with the region (USD 1.273 billion in 2007). Total trade with the Western Balkan countries (total population, 23.6 million) is less than total trade with Latvia (total population, 2.25 million). It amounts to 0.7 per cent of total exports and 0.2 per cent of total imports from third countries in 2007.

Trade with the Balkan countries:

in thousand PLN

% of total trade

Croatia

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Albania

Montenegro

Kosovo

Macedonia

Serbia

Imports
Exports

Imports
Exports

Imports
Exports

Imports
Exports

Imports
Exports

Imports
Exports

Imports
Exports

351,161.5
1,324,970.2

140,070.5
250,646.1

4,350.9
44,349.4

738.4
63,319.5

0.0
20,290.8

32,822.6
351,967.1

379,605.5
619,218.4

0.1
0.3

0.0
0.1

0.0
0.0

0.0
0.0

0.0
0.0

0.0
0.1

0.1
0.2

Polish FDI in the Western Balkans is also limited (around 70 million USD at the end of 2007). The great majority of it has gone to Croatia. On the other hand, according to the Croatian National Bank, Poland is an important market for Croatian FDI. Until the end of 2008 almost 7 percent of Croatian FDI was invested in Poland. The number of Polish tourists visiting Croatia is rising very fast. In 2008 almost 420,000 Poles went for holidays to Croatia (4.5 per cent of all foreign tourists were Polish).


Polish assistance to the Western Balkans

Enlargement:

Poland supports further EU enlargement on merit – on the condition that candidates are ready and have carried out the required reforms and meet the criteria. As Kaźmierkiewicz points out, “Progress in accession negotiations of any candidate demonstrates the viability of the process as a whole.” Poland is an active member of the Tallinn Group, which engages officials informally from 11 EU member states. They meet informally to discuss and co-ordinate policies on issues including future enlargement.

Visegrad-4

Poland has the Presidency of the Visegrad-4 group until 30 June 2009, when Hungary takes over. On the Western Balkans, Poland organised a visit for V-4 and British officials to Sarajevo following the local elections in October 2008 to talk with political leaders and the High Representative. More activities covering the Western Balkans are being planned by the Hungarians from July.

JHA

On the European Commission’s visa liberalisation agenda for the Western Balkans, Poland is sympathetic to putting the Western Balkans states on the White List – once all the required measures are in place in each country. It hopes to develop scholarships for students in the Western Balkans under the Visegrad Fund. It aims to be more active on the JHA agenda on areas such as integrated border management and police issues. It may take initiatives on twinning, working on a joint tender with the Netherlands. The Polish Ministry of Interior has had one official, Adam Dzudzic, an expert on visas and migration, advising the Kosovo Ministry of Interior in January 2009.

RCC

Poland is on the governing body of the Regional Co-operation Council (RCC).

Polish Aid

A Development Co-operation Department was established within of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 2005. Poland’s assistance policies are still being developed. While the overall sums are increasing the amount provided to the Western Balkans is relatively small.

Bilateral assistance for European integration is provided to Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Macedonia, and Serbia.

A small proportion of Polish development aid is allocated to the Western Balkans: some 0.6 million euros out a total budget of 34 million euros in 2008, according to Beata Wojna of PISM. Aid is either provided directly by the foreign ministry or a variety of Government channels, including embassies’ small grants. A significant proportion of the aid budget is delivered by Polish NGOs.  For 2009, 300,000 zlotys are available for applications (out of a total of 22.85 million zlotys) covering the West Balkans. Eight projects totalling 1 million zlotys have been submitted by the 19 February 2009 deadline. Piotr Kaźmierkiewicz of the Institute of Policy Affairs wrote in his analysis of Poland’s Democracy Assistance Policies and Priorities (PASOS 2008):  “A coherent and transparent process of planning, design, implementation and evaluation of Polish assistance is needed.”


Poland and Turkey

Both Polish public opinion and political elites support Turkish membership. In most of the opinion polls carried out in Poland between 2000 and 2008, the majority of respondents have revealed a positive attitude towards Turkey’s accession. Support for Turkey’s membership in Poland is one of the highest in the Union. However, the level of support for Turkish accession is lower than for any other candidate or potential candidate country, including the Western Balkan countries and Ukraine. Poland’s political elite is not unanimous is supporting Turkish accession – this not being the case with regard to the Western Balkans and Ukraine. Scepticism vis-à-vis Turkey’s membership is particularly strong among politicians from the Law and Justice party.

In recent years, support for Turkey’s membership has weakened somewhat and is now half-hearted. Generally speaking, public support for Turkey is not based on any strong convictions or principles. In fact, the issue – perceived as rather insignificant to Polish national interests – has not been extensively debated. Since 2005, in view of the cooling-off between Ankara and Brussels, the issue of Turkey’s accession has slipped even further down the Polish political agenda. Anti-Muslim prejudice is strong in Polish society, this being reflected to some extent in popular attitudes towards the Turks.

The Commonwealth (Rzeczpospolita: the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania) had relatively good relations with the Ottoman Empire for centuries. (It was the first European country to sign a friendship pact with the Ottoman Turks in 1533). The presence of a Tatar-Muslim minority, which as resided in the Grand Dutchy of Lithuania under religious authority of the Ottomans, is a unique phenomenon in Western Christendom. In Polish historical memory, Turkey is most often associated with the 1683 Battle of Vienna (the Polish king Jan Sobieski “saving Europe” from the Muslim conquest) and the legend of the Ottomans as the only power to have refused recognizing the partition of Poland. The Ottoman Empire did indeed play a critical role in supporting the Polish émigrés’ struggle for national independence in the 19th century. Many Poles served in the Ottoman army and the state administration, contributing to the country’s modernization and the development of modern Turkish nationalism. Poland was one of the first countries to recognize the government of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. Following the German and Soviet assaults against Poland in 1939, the Turkish ambassador offered asylum to the Polish government; despite Nazi pressure, the Polish embassy functioned in Ankara during the War. Relations cooled after the War, the two countries’ finding themselves on opposing sides of the Cold War divide. With the demise of the Soviet Union, Polish-Turkish relations have recovered, one sign of this being Ankara’s support for Poland’s accession to NATO. The Polish parliament’s 2005 resolution recognizing the Armenian genocide has so far been the only source of diplomatic crisis.

Adam Balcer, author of “Polish Stakeholders in the EU-Turkey Debate“, writes:

Bilateral contacts between Poland and Turkey are limited, albeit regular. After the fall of communism, the Polish Prime Minister visited Turkey only once at the bilateral level and the Turkish Prime Minister has never visited Poland for a bilateral meeting. This lack of bilateral visits can be explained by the limited economic cooperation between the two countries. Presidential visits are more frequent. Since 1989, every Polish and Turkish President has visited Turkey and Poland respectively at least once. In 1993 the Polish-Turkish presidential committee, consisting in officials from key ministries was established. The meetings of the committee take place once a year. In addition to Turkey, Poland has established a committee of this kind only with Ukraine.”

Trade volume between Poland and Turkey is not high, though it has increased in recent years. In 2001, trade turnover was USD 537 million; in 2007 it peaked at USD 3,644 billion (with exports from Poland at USD 1,508 billion and imports at USD 2,136 billion), this accounting for 1% of Polish foreign trade. Turkey ranks as Poland’s 19th biggest trade partner. Polish FDI in Turkey is limited: USD 8 million at the end of 2007 according to the Turkish sources; USD 85 million according to Polish ones. Turkish investments in Poland are also small (USD 42 million according to Polish sources). On the other hand, construction contracts with Turkish firms, worth USD 200 million, are a relatively important element of Polish-Turkish economical relations.

27 March 2009