6th anniversary of Poland’s EU membership and approaching EU presidency

Foundation for European Studies, European Institute

Anna Jedrzejewska
 
Since April 2010, the public debate and media coverage in Poland were to a great extent dominated by the issues related to the crash of the President’s plane near Smolensk, the discussions over the Katyn mass-killings during World War II and mutual relations with Russia. Consequently, the pre-term presidential elections dominated in media coverage and political discourse after 20 April 2010. Additionally, May 2010 saw the problem of flooding and, therefore, media and political debates have been predominantly preoccupied with the domestic topics mentioned above.
 
Nevertheless, one of the EU-related topics present in media and political discourse was the 6th anniversary of Poland’s membership in the EU. Most of the major public and private newspapers and TV stations published interviews with experts and politicians, commentaries and organised debates summing up the six years of Poland’s membership in the EU. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs published on this occasion the document summarising the main conclusions from six years of membership.[1] The document summarises the impact of membership on Poland’s economic growth, presents the balance of financial flows and utilisation of cohesion policies resources. Later on, the document analyses the impact on Polish agriculture, trade exchange, and foreign direct investment, as well as the effects of membership on the labour market and migration. Finally, the document summarises the opinions of the Polish public on membership and the generally positive impact of membership.
 
The 6th anniversary was commemorated by major political forces in Poland. The governing Civic Platform (Platforma Obywatelska – PO) published a summary of public opinion surveys suggesting a generally positive attitude towards Poland’s membership. The representatives of the party in the European Parliament stressed as the main achievements the improvement of living conditions; investment in infrastructure improving the quality of life, not only in large agglomerations but also in “regional” Poland;[2] the change of attitudes towards Poland and Poles in Europe and the gradual shortening of distance towards the 2004 newcomers;[3] and progress by Polish authorities in “socialising” in EU institutions, which translates into better understanding of mechanisms governing the EU and learning how to protect national interest in the EU so that “it would not divide but unite”.[4] The Civic Platform candidate in the presidential elections stressed the importance of support (also in the form of direct payments for farmers) from the EU as “opportunities used by rural areas and the whole country”.[5] Similar voices could be heard on the side of the main opposition party Law and Justice, whose Member of the European Parliament Pawel Kowal stressed that Poles have learned how to protect national interest in the EU system, while Poland has been seen more pragmatically as an important political partner in Europe. The most typical understanding of Poland’s stance in the EU is – in his view – seeing Poland as a strong supporter of energy security and eastern policy.[6]
 
The major media name among Poland’s achievements the current economic situation of Poland, the utilisation of structural funds and investments,[7] the success of the Eastern Partnership (EaP) and its influence on EU-Russia relations.[8] By joining the EU, the Poles enjoy travelling without border control and the Union’s funding, while threats of buying out Polish land did not proved true.[9] Gazeta Wyborcza daily quotes among the major success stories of Poland’s membership: infrastructure investments from EU funds (roads, bridges, co-financing of investment for enterprises, direct payments for farmers), the opening of markets for Polish goods and services, the opening of the labour market that contributed to diminishing unemployment rates domestically and additional money transfers to Poland’s economy.[10]
 
The Public Opinion Research Center published the results of the survey before the 6th anniversary of entry into the EU. In the first half of April 2010, the number of supporters for Poland’s membership amounted to 86 percent of respondents, 9 percent of the respondents declare they are against membership, while 5 percent declare themselves as “undecided”.[11]
 
Poland’s presidency priorities
 
During the Conference “The Polish Presidency of the European Union” organised by Warsaw University on 10 May 2010, Deputy Prime Minister Waldemar Pawlak outlined the issues that will probably be among Poland’s presidency priorities. According to the Minister, the development of the EaP will be the natural consequence of the role played by Poland in the region. The economic priorities should include – according to the Deputy Prime Minister – energy security, trade issues and competitiveness.[12] The experts in EU affairs interviewed on this occasion stressed that the country holding the presidency should mainly play the role of mediator between the member states and the Union’s institutions without pressing too much for its own priorities, while being ready to offer “innovative thinking” in proposing alternative solutions when needed[13] and that it would be good if Poland – during its presidency – initiated the debate over the European Union’s future in order to avoid possible overstretching of the Union’s procedures.[14]


[1] Ekonomiczno-społeczne efekty członkostwa Polski w Unii Europejskiej. Główne wnioski w związku z 6-tą rocznicą przystąpienia Polski do UE [Socio-economic effects of Poland’s Membership in the EU. Major conclusions related to the 6th anniversary of membership], available at: www.polskawue.gov.pl (last access: 7 May 2010).

[2] Interview of 30 April 2010 with Danuta Huebner, MEP, service of Polish Press Agency on European Parliament, available at: www.europarlament.pap.pl (last access: 28 July 2010).

[3] Ibid. See also interview of 4 May 2010 with Jacek Saryusz-Wolski, MEP, service of Polish Press Agency on European Parliament, available at: www.europarlament.pap.pl (last access: 28 July 2010).

[4] Interview of 30 April 2010 with Danuta Huebner, MEP, service of Polish Press Agency on European Parliament, available at: www.europarlament.pap.pl (last access: 28 July 2010).

[5] Bronislaw Komorowski during the meeting with farmers during annual Pilgrimage of farmers to Lichen Sanctuary. Service of Polish Press Agency on European Parliament, available at: www.europarlament.pap.pl (last access: 28 July 2010).

[6] Interview of 30 April 2010 with Pawel Kowal, MEP, service of Polish Press Agency on European Parliament, available at: www.europarlament.pap.pl (last access: 28 July 2010).

[7] E.g. RMF24 radio station on 1 May 2010, available at: www.rmf24.pl (last access: 28 July 2010); TVP Info, available at: www.tvp.info (last access: 28 July 2010).

[8] RMF24 radio station, 1 May 2010, available at: www.rmf24.pl (last access: 28 July 2010).

[9] TVP Info available at: www.tvp.info (last access: 28 July 2010).

[10] Gazeta Wybrocza daily, 29 April 2010, available at: www.gazeta.pl (last access: 28 July 2010).

[11] Public Opinion Research Center survey, quoted after: www.europarlament.pap.pl (last access: 28 July 2010).

[12] Available at: www.europarlament.pap.pl (last access: 28 July 2010).

[13] Rafal Trzaskowski, MEP, quoted by www.europarlament.pap.pl (last access: 28 July 2010).

[14] Professor Dariusz Milczarek of Warsaw University quoted by www.europarlament.pap.pl (last access: 28 July 2010).

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