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Poland and the EU
The final chapter before accession

Richard J. Hunter, Jr. and Leo V. Ryan, C.S.V.

The dream of Poland's full participation in a united Europe, as first exemplified by Poland's membership in NATO(1) and in her desire to become a member of the European Union, is about to become a reality. The formal process began in May 1990, when the government of former Prime Minister Tadeusz Mazowiecki submitted its official application for the opening of accession negotiations in Brussels. A major step was accomplished on February 1, 1994, when Poland and the European Economic Community signed the European Treaty, assuring Poland's "associated country status." It is now expected that Poland and the nine remaining "candidate countries" will join the European Union(2) on May 1, 2004. Poland will probably join the "eurozone," adopting the euro as its medium of exchange, in 2007. After a round of intense diplomatic and political summitry, accession negotiations were completed on December 13, 2002 in Copenhagen, Denmark. It now appears that Poland was able to negotiate final terms that were favorable both to Poland's domestic and international positions.(3)

The team that Prime Minister Leszek Miller(4) assembled, including Agriculture Minister Jaroslaw Kalinowski, Finance Minister Grzegorz Kolodko,(5) Foreign Minister Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz, frontline negotiators Jan Truszynski and Minister for European Affairs, Professor Danuta Hubner, had a two-pronged strategy: negotiate additional budgetary considerations for Poland in order to meet accession costs and reduce the budget deficits;(6) negotiate a more favorable scheme for the Polish agricultural sector, especially in the first years of EU membership, especially the higher milk production quotas.(7)

Budgetary Issues

A final compromise, made possible when German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder unexpectedly supported Poland's request for additional funding, will result in 1.036 billion euros added to the Polish budget. Polish negotiators also secured an additional 1.5 billion euros in cash to be transferred to the Polish budget over three years, including 443 million euros previously agreed upon by the EU for 2004. In the years 2004-2006, 1.063 billion euros in compensation payments will be transferred to the Polish budget. In addition to budget compensation payments, Poland is also scheduled to receive 280 million euros to be spent on critical eastern border reinforcement expenses.

Agricultural Issues

The agricultural issue has remained the most troublesome and persistent for Polish negotiators--and on the domestic political scene. Poland was successful in negotiating for direct (parity) payments for Polish farmers, the amount of which will however reach only 55, 60, and 65 percent of the payments granted to current EU farmers in the years 2004-2006.(8) Another important issue revolved around milk production quotas. The total milk quota will remain at the level of 8.96 million tons in the first two years after accession. In 2006, the milk quota may rise to 9.38 million tons. Needless to say, Polish farmers are far from happy, but the alternatives were even less attractive.


One of the priorities of the Miller negotiating team revolved around the issue of the VAT. Poland was able to gain some substantial concessions. In order to stimulate residential apartment construction, Poland won a 7 percent VAT rate on completed apartments until the end of 2007. In addition, negotiations resulted in a 3 percent VAT rate on products used in agricultural production, such as fertilizers and pesticides. Until the end of 2007, a 0 percent rate will be imposed on some categories of books and "specialty" magazines, and a 7 percent VAT on restaurant services, as well as a 0 percent VAT on certain eco-fuels in the first year of EU membership. By December 2008, Poland will be required to impose a minimum of 64 euro per 1000 cigarettes (50 packs/5 cartons).

Polish Employment in the EU

A restriction on Polish immigration into EU nations is contemplated, lasting from two to seven years. However, Poland has secured assurances from the UK, France, Sweden, and Spain that they would impose no such restrictions on the free, cross-border movement of Polish labor.(9) An important cession was made when the EU agreed to the equivalency of Polish nursing diplomas, placing them on a par with their EU counterparts.

Polish Land Sales and EU Border Issues

Polish farmers and some on the right, most notably representatives from the League of Polish Families,(10) and representatives of Samoobrona(11) have been especially vocal that membership in the EU will result in the wholesale transfer of Polish assets to foreigners. Poland negotiated a transition period on the purchase of agricultural land and forest plots--twelve years for companies, three years for private farmers buying land in the east of Poland, and seven years for those buying land in western and northern Poland. Poland will also join what is termed as the Schengen system by 2006, at the earliest. As agreed upon, Poles will have the right to cross the EU's internal borders without passport control. In return, Poland is obliged to introduce limited visa requirements for citizens of Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia by July 1, 2003, and reinforce the protection on its eastern border.

Environmental Concerns

While Poland has been active in cleaning up the residue of nearly fifty years of communist industrialization that ravaged much of Poland (Kraków--Nowa Huta is just one example), the cost of compliance with stringent EU standards has been a persistent concern. Poland was able to gain several transitional periods with regard to EU environmental directives. Poland, however, has agreed to a series of projects including: a commitment to build sewage treatment plans by the end of 2008 or 2015, depending on the size and population of the city; to modernize landfills and construct new ones before 2012; to prevent the further contamination of the environment by large factories with sixty-five "specified substances" before 2010; and to prevent water contamination with "dangerous substances" before 2007. In addition, Poland has agreed to reduce sulfur content in fuels before 2005, to reduce emissions involved in petrochemical storage, and to meet EU requirements regarding the volume of recycled packaging before 2005.

A referendum will follow in which the Polish people will be asked to ratify the work of more than a decade. Although support for Poland's entry into the EU has remained steady, in the range of 55 percent to 65 percent,(12) the referendum will be hard fought and contentious. The spring and summer should prove quite interesting.


1. On July 8, 1997, NATO foreign ministers extended an invitation to three former Soviet bloc nations, Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary, to join the alliance in time for NATO's 50th anniversary. For a discussion of the importance of NATO membership for Poland, see Richard J. Hunter, Jr. and Leo. V. Ryan, From Autarchy to Market: Polish Economics and Politics 1945-1995 (Westport, CT: Praeger, 1998), 162-163, 194-195, 211-212.

2. In 1993, the European Community was transformed into the European Union. The Treaty of Nice of December 2000 laid down the basic legal framework for EU enlargement.

3. The "final" Polish position is outlined in Malgorzata Kaczorowska, "EU Negotiations: Milking an Issue," The Warsaw Voice, December 15, 2002, p. 5.

4. During the period immediately preceding the Denmark meeting, Prime Minister Miller met with the Prime Minister of Great Britain, the Prime Minister of Denmark, the Chancellor of Germany, the Prime Ministers of the Visegrad Group, the Prime Minister of Spain, the Prime Minister of Italy, Pope John Paul II, and the Prime Minister of Sweden.

5. Grzegorz Kolodko surprisingly replaced Minister of Finance Marek Belka in July of 2002. See Marcin Mierzejewski, "The Warsaw Shuffle," The Warsaw Voice, July 14, 2002, pp. 5, 19. Kolodko had served as Minister of Finance between 1994-1997. However, his initial spell at the ministry allegedly "featured a degree of arrogance that no other finance minister has been able to emulate."

6. For a discussion of current economic issues in Poland see Central Europe Economic Letter published by Krzysztof Beledowski at

7. Malgorzata Kaczorowska, "Triumph of the Will," The Polish Voice (Warsaw), 22-29 December 2002, 7-8; The Post Eagle (Passaic, NJ), 22 January 2003, pp. 1, 66.

8.The original EU proposal was for 25, 30, and 35 percent subsidization.

9. For a full discussion of the EU's internal market of goods, see "A Bitter Pill," The Polish Voice , no. 27, p. 20.

10.With thirty-eight deputies in the Sejm, LPR formally opposes Poland's accession to the EU. It received 8 percent in the last Parliamentary elections.

11. Samoobrona, with fifty seats in the Sejm, has capitalized on widespread rural and small town resentment. Its leader, the controversial Andrzej Lepper, introduced a draft resolution in the Sejm that would have resulted in a total ban on selling Polish land to foreigners.

12. Arguments of proponents of membership may be found at (The Polish Council for European Movement), and (The Catholic Office for Information and European Initiatives). The Episcopate of the Catholic Church has been a consistent proponent of European integration and Poland's entry into the EU. However, see Jan Maksymiuk, "Poland: Will the Roman Catholic Church Split?" Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, vol. 4, no. 35 (17 September 2002) outlining the divergence of opinion between the Polish Episcopate led by Cardinal Glemp and Father Tadeusz Rydzyk, the head of Radio Maryja, which claims an audience of 1.4 million Poles per day and some 5.9 million per week.

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