In December last year Poland joined the Schengen group of European countries with no borders between them. Today also airports have been made Schengen operational. No documents like passport are required.
It is a really big deal. The United States of Europe are being created on our eyes. The Schengen rules apply among most European countries, covering a population of over 400 million and a total area of 4,268,633 km² (1,648,128 sq mi). They include provisions on common policy on the temporary entry of persons (including the Schengen Visa), the harmonisation of external border controls, which are coordinated by the Frontex agency of the European Union, and cross-border police and judicial co-operation.
A total of 31 states, including 27 European Union states and four non-EU members (Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland), are subject to all or some of the Schengen rules, and 24 have fully implemented them so far. Ireland and the United Kingdom did not sign up to the original Schengen Convention of 1990.
Border posts and checks have been removed between the states which form the Schengen area. A common Schengen visa allows tourists or other visitors access to the area. Holders of residence permits to a Schengen state enjoy the freedom of travel to other Schengen states for a period of up to three months.
I wish, and hope, that some day, the U.S.A. will join this.
Why not? If Americans behave themselves, we will accept them. hahahahahahahahaha
For the time being, funny situations happen after border control disappeared.
Two Poles were detained for smuggling two armoured anti-aircraft cannon carriers into Poland from Slovakia. Slovakian law enables the possession of such stuff by a private person, but Polish law doesn`t because the carriers are armed with cannons which require a special gun permit.
- At the same time, in spite of Poland's joining the Schengen zone, the German customs officials have been harassing, groundlessly, brutally and with Nazi racist zeal, Poles travelling via Germany. So much for the German-led US of Europe - and for friendly antiracist denazified Germany too.
- At the same time, in spite of Poland's joining the Schengen zone, the German customs officials have been harassing, groundlessly, brutally and with Nazi racist zeal, Poles travelling via Germany. So much for the German-led US of Europe - and for friendly antiracist denazified Germany too.
Hmm, my sister is a teacher of German in one of Krakow`s high schools. She travels to Germany a few times a year, either with her students on exchange programs or with her family. They spent their last winter holiday skiing in Germany.
I must tell you she is a very proud woman. She gets offended quite easily and then refuses to have anything in common with the insulter. If she has ever been insulted by German customs, either on the border or in Germany proper, she would certainly change her habits, I am sure of it.
Puzzler, I know when such incidents happen. If someone drives a rusty car which looks like it is going to fall apart soon, with bare tyres and broken lights, it is normal that such a person becomes a target for the German police or customs.
PS. Are Polish customs officers impeccable themselves? What do you know about the way they treat Ukrainians and Belarussians on the eastern border?
[/quote]Hmm, my sister is a teacher of German travels to Germany. If she has ever been insulted by German customs, Puzzler, I know when such incidents happen. If someone drives a rusty car which looks like it is going to fall apart soon, with bare tyres and broken lights, it is normal that such a person becomes a target for the German police or customs. PS. Are Polish customs officers impeccable themselves? What do you know about the way they treat Ukrainians and Belarussians on the eastern border?[/quote]
- So you say since your sister hasn't been harassed then nobody else has? - You say you 'know when such incidents happen.' Do you mean you know personally - witnessed, etc. - those particular incidents I mentioned? If yes, tell me more about them. Or perhaps you mean you don't know them from personal experience - you just 'know' them in a psychic-like manner? If so, oh, what a brainy chap you are - you don't see, don't witness personally, just 'see' it all in your imagination and from now on you 'know' ! Astonishing indeed! So you say all those harassed Poles drove 'rusty' cars, etc.? Do you know this for a fact? Gimme those facts, please. Now what's the whoop about those Ukrainians and Belorussians allegedly harassed by Polish customs? Any specifics on that? And do you mean that if Polish customs harass those guys, then it's just fine that, in retribution, the Kraut customs harass the Poles? Well, are you Polish at all, pal, or some Ukrainian or Belorussian? I thought it's a Polish, not Polonophobic, forum. Let me ask you something. Do you happen to be an avid reader of Muchnik's Gazeta Wyborcza?
- So you say since your sister hasn't been harassed then nobody else has? -
Of course I never said that nobody was harassed. But your dramatic post about Nazi-like, racist German customs officers sounded as if all Poles were harassed. I gave you an example of my sister who wasn`t.
You say you 'know when such incidents happen.' Do you mean you know personally - witnessed, etc. - those particular incidents I mentioned? If yes, tell me more about them.
Yes, I can tell you about one incident which happened on Czech-Austrian border. There weren`t Germans, only Austrians, but it is quite close, isn`t it? hahaha They refused to let in a Pole who drove a car without one headlight. It was dawn as were were travelling at night to be in Vienna at 8 am. Still dark. The Austrian officer said he wouldn`t allow such a car drive in his country. The poor driver had to wait till shops were open in the Czech Republic.
I think more or less the same incidents could happen to Poles in Germany.
Was it really a Nazi racist harassment?
Or perhaps you mean you don't know them from personal experience - you just 'know' them in a psychic-like manner? If so, oh, what a brainy chap you are - you don't see, don't witness personally, just 'see' it all in your imagination and from now on you 'know' ! Astonishing indeed!
Oh la la, it looks like Puzzler`s ego trip.
So be it.
No, I know such cases not only from my experience. I also read papers and sometimes watch TV. If I encountered incidents of what you describe as Nazi racists harassment, it was mostly German abiding to their law. Like in the case of a certain Pole whose car was confiscated because there was a divergence between car engine`s real numbers and numbers stamped in the registration card. The Pole probably viewed it as harassment that his car landed in the German junkyard.
So you say all those harassed Poles drove 'rusty' cars, etc.? Do you know this for a fact? Gimme those facts, please.
No, Puzzler. I don`t need to give you any facts because you didn`t either, when you just threw in this Nazi racist harassment without any proofs and zero explanation on what you had in mind. You know, first you enlighten me and then it will be my turn.
Now what's the whoop about those Ukrainians and Belorussians allegedly harassed by Polish customs? Any specifics on that? And do you mean that if Polish customs harass those guys, then it's just fine that, in retribution, the Kraut customs harass the Poles?
Of course I didn`t even hint that I support such retribution. Now you are putting words into my mouth.
What I meant by my mention of Polish impolite treatment of Ukrainians (described in paper articles which I read) is that we shouldn`t single out Germans as the perpetrators of harassment offences, but it happens in Poland and in other countries too.
Now, Traveller, what do you know about the harassment of Poles by British customs in 80s? I was studying at the uni then and refused to go to Britain not to be harrassed because I am a proud guy. And I had first-hand reports about it from my uni mates and my family members too.
Do you know anything or are you too young?
Well, are you Polish at all, pal, or some Ukrainian or Belorussian? I thought it's a Polish, not Polonophobic, forum. Let me ask you something. Do you happen to be an avid reader of Muchnik's Gazeta Wyborcza?
Oh la la. So many questions! hahahaha
I am Polish, not Ukrainian, but apart from that, I am educated and a teacher too. My job is to be objective, not biased. I try to view facts and analyse them without prejudice, most of the time. That is why I would never say what you said: Nazi racist German customs in allegedly denazified Germany. That is too strong and smells of bias
It is a Polish forum, but as it is run by me, it aims at reasonable analysis.
As for Gazeta Wyborcza, even if I was its reader, would it matter, really? hahaha
No, I am not. I stopped buying it a few years ago. But when a fellow teacher brings it to school, I always flip through when I have time, and not without pleasure hahaha.
Now, let me ask you something: are you by chance a fan of the Duck Twins? They are known for their fanatic anti-German zeal.
Poland has been a signatory to the Schengen Treaty since May 2004, but it wasn't till mid December last year that it had become a party to its Article 20, which states that citizens of a member country may cross internal EU borders without regular customs clearance or passport control. This, for obvious reasons, had been welcome by many Poles.
But Schengen is not only limited to individual tourist or visitor convenience. As a member Poland has been granted access and possibility of contributing to an information data base which increased border security, though internal Union borders physically ceased to exist.
But not everything has been rosy over the past year. One of the requirements of Schengen zone entry for Poland has been the introduction of EU visas at the eastern border. No effective solutions have been found with respect to easing the regulations for so-called small border region traffic, especially with Ukraine and Belarus. The government in Warsaw has pledged to solve the problem within the nearest months.
Poles discriminated against at German border? thenews.pl 15.12.2008
A year after entering the Schengen zone, some Poles claim they are still discriminated against, especially crossing the German border.
"On my way back from Lipsk I felt like there was no Schengen, having to queue to pass the border," said one traveller from south- western Poland, according to whom officials randomly controlled Polish cars.
After celebrations of the first anniversary of nine countries entering the Schengen zone German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schauble explained, Sunday, that random check-ups are to avoid the creation of an entirely control- free zone and there is no malice in officials' behaviour, or any discrimination.
However, Interior Minister Grzegorz Schetyna said that Germany is having to make the random checks because protecting the European Union's borders could prove difficult for Poland alone.
Poland signed Schengen Agreement, whose aim is to abolish systematic border controls among the participating countries, on 21 December 2007.
Sejm Spared the 'Controversy' of an EU Flag Wojciech Szacki 2009-01-29
There will be no EU flag in the parliament building because it would be out of tune with the assembly room's décor and could be controversial.
The motion for displaying the twelve-star blue flag in the Sejm's assembly room was made by the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) - back in May last year, to commemorate the fourth anniversary of Poland's accession.
'I saw such flags in other member states' parliaments and I think we should have one too to emphasise our membership,' says Joanna Szymanek-Deresz (SLD).
'We wanted to display two flags: the Polish one, and the EU one on the speaker's left, near the vase with flowers. Perhaps, having them in front of their eyes, the deputies would debate more matter-of- factly, remembering that it's not only our yard we operate on' adds Ms Szymanek-Deresz.
Time is passing, the fifth anniversary of Poland's accession is nearing, and the flag is still not there. Ms Szymanek-Deresz: 'To this day I've received no written reply. I was only told unofficially that an EU flag would be out of tune with the room's décor.'
'The matter was discussed by the Council of Senior Members and was left unsolved. But there is an EU flag in the Sejm - in the speaker's office,' says Krzysztof Luft, director of the Sejm's press office.
Why cannot one be displayed in the assembly room?
Mr Luft: 'The last thing we'd want is a controversy over this. And for some it could be controversial. Besides, it isn't clear where exactly such a flag should hang. It could, however, be flown in front of the parliament buildings.'
Ms Szymanek-Deresz says the SLD will not follow in the footsteps of Solidarity Elections Action (AWS) deputy Tomasz Wójcik, who in 1997 secretly, at night, hung a cross in the assembly room - falling off a ladder in the process, in fact.
I wonder who might receive it as controvercy in the Seym. PiS MPs? But when PiS was in power in 2007, they did have EU flags in government offices....
Poland for suspension of EU sanctions against Belarus Polish Radio 16.03.2009
Poland is in favor of suspending visa sanctions against representatives of the Belarusian authorities for another six month period. Such a stand was presented in Brussels by Polish foreign minister Radoslaw Sikorski, before the meeting of EU foreign ministers, who are to decide about the sanctions.
Warsaw's view is connected with the peaceful course of events at the congress of the Union of ethnic Poles in Belarus. Minister Sikorski said the Minsk regime should be given another chance. `We don't see a reason to toughen our stand towards Belarus', Sikorski said.He explained that the aim of the EU policy towards Belarus should be, on the one hand, to ensure respect for the rights of ethnic minorities, and on the other hand, to forge closer ties between Belarus and the European Union.
Most EU countries share Poland's view, though diplomats say that the resumption of contacts between Minsk and Brussels last October has not brought as many positive results as the EU had expected. The regime of Alexander Lukashenko has sent some positive signals, inviting opposition members to several advisory councils and allowing the publication of two suspended opposition dailies, but 13 other independent dailies cannot use the national distribution system. The opposition points out that, though the authorities have freed political prisoners, they are using new forms of repression, like forced conscription into the army or house arrest.
Polish PM basks in EU acclaim, euro still By Gareth Jones
WARSAW, April 30 (Reuters) - Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk has deftly used meetings with European leaders this week to showcase his country's successes since joining the EU five years ago, but his cherished goal of euro membership remains elusive.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the prime ministers of Britain, France, Italy and others all paid glowing tributes to Poland's progress as a politically stable and increasingly prosperous member state since its accession on May 1, 2004.
Many of the leaders were in Warsaw for a gathering of the conservative European People's Party (EPP), the largest grouping in the European Parliament, to launch campaigning for EU-wide elections to the assembly in June.
The EU and Tusk, whose centre-right Civic Platform (PO) is far ahead of rivals in Polish opinion polls, both stressed the benefits to both Poland and the EU of the 2004 "big bang" enlargement that took in 10 mostly ex-communist new members.
"Poland's accession... boosted Europe's economy and our internal market and improved Europe's security... and its geostrategic and political position in the world," European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso told EPP delegates in Warsaw's monumental, Soviet-era Palace of Culture on Thursday.
Tusk wants Poland, the EU's sixth largest member state by population and its biggest ex-communist economy, to play a role in the Union commensurate with its size and strategic location.
To that end, his government has tried hard since taking power in 2007 to repair ties with key trade partner Germany, the European Commission and also with historic foe Russia -- all badly strained under the previous conservative and nationalist- minded administration of Jaroslaw Kaczynski.
Tusk's government can also claim credit, along with Sweden, for the EU's "Eastern Partnership" project, which aims to build closer ties with ex-Soviet states such as Ukraine and to counter Russian influence in the region. An "Eastern Partnership" summit will take place in Prague next week.
Playing the EU card now -- parades and open-air concerts are planned in coming days to mark the anniversary -- should further boost Tusk's party despite growing concerns among Poles about the slowing economy, rising unemployment and tighter credit.
"I think the EPP meeting is positive for him. It shows Tusk as an equal among equals. This is important because... Poles sometimes feel we are only second-class citizens in Europe," said Eugeniusz Smolar of the Center for International Relations.
"It also enables the PO to depict the main opposition party as very negative," he added, referring to Kaczynski's Law and Justice (PiS) party, which is opposed to further EU integration or early adoption of the euro.
Poles seem to share Tusk's enthusiasm for the EU.
An opinion poll published by the Gazeta Wyborcza daily on Thursday showed 85 percent back EU membership. Most Poles agree joining the EU has helped the economy, though a sizeable minority in this staunchly Catholic country views EU liberalism on moral issues as a threat to the traditional family.
Thursday's newspapers highlighted the benefits of EU membership. Poles can now travel and work freely across Europe -- and millions do -- and some 91 billion euros ($121 billion) in EU funds are expected to flow into the country between 2007 and 2013.
Poland's annual economic growth would have been nearly two percent lower outside the EU, the Rzeczpospolita daily said.
But the main failure of successive governments on the EU front since 2004, the papers said, has been adopting the euro.
Tusk announced last autumn, just before the global economic crisis hit the region, that his government aimed to put the zloty into the pre-euro European Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM-2) by July this year and to adopt the euro in 2012.
That timetable now looks unrealistically optimistic as the economic slowdown -- nobody here speaks of recession, at least not yet -- drives up the government's budget deficit and increases the volatility of the zloty currency.
The government remains publicly committed to the timetable, not least because it does not want to admit PiS was right in arguing for a later target date, but it has accepted Poles will probably have to wait longer before they can start using euros.
A Reuters poll of economists published this week saw Poland now entering ERM-2 -- where the zloty would trade in a fixed range against the euro -- only in 2010 and adopting the euro in 2013.
Economists say euro delay may be no bad thing as it leaves the government greater flexibility in tackling the slowdown.
Delay is unlikely to harm the government politically.
"People understand the euro is a question of years, not months," said Pawel Spiewak of Warsaw University.
"In any case, the euro allows Tusk to portray himself and his party as more European and to push Kaczynski into a corner," he said, adding that Kaczynski could not afford to be very positive on the euro because of his nationalist voters.
--------------------------------------------- EU enlargement splits Polish family EUbusiness.com 29 April 2009
(NOWA HUTA) - Malgorzata Trala lives in Nowa Huta in southern Poland. Andrzej, her son, works in Dublin, while her daughter Agatala lives in Lincoln, in eastern England.
Tens of thousands of Polish families have been broken up by labour migration after Poland joined the European Union on May 1, 2004. London, Dublin and other major cities in Europe have all had a major influx of Poles, Latvians, Lithuanians and others from the 10 countries that joined the bloc.
"Andrzej left for Ireland June 15, 2005, two weeks after finishing high school," said his mother, a 52-year-old nurse sitting in a room festooned with Guinness beer mugs.
As soon as she finished school last year, Agata followed her brother.
There was not much to leave behind. All three lived in a tiny flat in Nowa Huta, a working class suburb of the historic Polish city of Krakow.
At first, Agata joined her brother in Dublin. She spread her wings and left for Lincoln to be with her Polish boyfriend. Now she works in a pastry shop earning 180 pounds (200 euros) a week.
"The EU changed our lives completely. Our family is spread across three corners of Europe," said Malgorzata, who is proud of her children's success despite her own loneliness.
"Andrzej has proven he can work hard to study and at the same time pay his rent. I'm grateful to Ireland. It taught him well. Before it was mum who had to do everything," she chuckled.
In Nowa Huta where the Arcelor-Mittal steel company laid off many workers after taking over the local plant, Andrzej would have had little opportunity to earn a decent living.
"As soon as I arrived in Dublin, I found a job in at a printers for 1,600 euros -- that's 10 times the minimum wage in Poland," Andrzej told AFP.
"After working two months, I paid off my debts and I was able to travel to Athens to watch a game with Cracovia, my (Polish) football team. But I don't want to be a "Polak" who cleans up after the Irish."
Ireland's boom years allowed Andrzej to find a better job. He now organises shipments for a maritime transport company and has taken up logistics studies to further his career.
Agata also wants to learn how to make dentures at a school in Poland. She hopes to start her studies in May.
"It was very hard at first. I missed my friends horribly and always thought about my mother," Agata recalled, speaking English in a thick Polish accent.
"Now I have more and more friends here and I think it's a good country to live in. It's still very hard for mum -- she lived with both of us and now she's all alone."
The family stays in touch via the telephone and the Internet. "Agata calls me almost every second day," says Malgorzata, who has visited Britain 16 times in four years.
"Every time I bring them Polish specialties. Once I travelled with 200 pierogis (Polish ravioli). If there's one thing they don't like over there, it's the food."
"The emigration of Poles, it's good for Poland on the condition that they return one day," she said. "We need to air out the country. We have nearly 50 years of communism behind us."
Poland's move into the EU in 2004 cast off some of the final vestiges of its four decades as a Soviet satellite state up until 1989.
"Our generation will change our country. The experience we've gained here, we'll bring it back to Poland one day," said Agata.
But will those who left after 2004 ever return?
"Contrary to what the experts predicted, for the moment the economic crisis has not scared the away the 1.2 million Poles who emigrated to the British isles after May 1, 2004," said Professor Krystyna Iglicka, a demographer and consultant to the Polish government.
Even though he has no immediate plan to return, Andrzej wants all the same to buy an apartment in Nowa Huta as an investment for the future.
On the eve of Poland's five year anniversary of joining the EU, 77 percent of Poles are satisfied being a part of the 27 nation bloc.
According to a poll by the Gfk Polonia pollsters, 67 percent of respondents, especially the young, support the idea of EU enlargement. They think the countries which should be allowed to enter the EU are: Ukraine (55 percent), Croatia (39 percent), Belarus (31 percent) and Turkey (27 percent).
According to the survey, Poles like the EU as it is and do not support great changes. Almost half of the respondents (49 percent) do not want a common EU government and 57 percent oppose the idea of a common president.
Forty nine percent want the Lisbon Treaty to be introduced and 63 percent think it should refer to Christian values in the preamble.
The survey was conducted on 24 -26 April among a sample of 1000.
Poland five years after accession - `a huge achievement'
01.05.2009 On the fifth anniversary of Poland joining the EU we talk to the Representative of the European Commission in Poland, and now Civic Platform European Parliament candidate, Ró¿a Thun. Ró¿a Thun has been the head of the Representation of the European Commission in Poland. She is now standing in the elections for the European Parliament for the Civic Platform party. From 1992 - 2005 she was the director of the Polish Robert Schuman Foundation. the was also a Solidarity activist in the Krakow region during the 1980s. She was also a co-organiser of the "Say Yes" campaign in the referendum on whether to join the European Union in 2003. On the fifth anniversary of Poland joining the EU, we asked her to look back over that period, and the run up to joining the union. How Poland has benefited from the experience. thenews.pl: In 1992 you became the president of the Polish Robert Schuman Foundation, one of the leading NGOs promoting the idea of European integration. What were your hopes and fears, back then in 1992? Ró¿a Thun: As far as I remember, there were neither hopes nor fears linked to European integration, because the debate about joining the EU was nonexistent. That is exactly why I got so involved in the Robert Schuman Foundation. I wanted to somehow animate the debate, inform people in Poland that this is a natural devrelopment and represented the future for Poland. What date did you project back for Poland's joining the EU? As soon as possible. I did not project any date, everything that happened in Poland was so much more than whatever I expected back in the seventies and earlier. I was involved in the democratic [Solidarity] opposition and I was a so-called dissident. But I never expected that communism would collapse within my life time. Things happened much faster than I expected. After communism fell, we tried to get people to debate the European integration issue. We organized plenty of conferences, meetings, seminars, etc, but it was not easy at all. There were other problems in Poland to be solved back then [in the early 1990s]. When we used the word integration, people really didn't know what it meant. Since the early nineties, you have been cooperating with people from different circles and political persuasions. How did people perceive the EU at that time? Very few knew how it functioned. Very few knew what it really was, but everybody knew, that "them" - meaning Western Europeans - were free, rich, well organized. Of course, many of the nationalist conservatives had a picture of a terrible morally rotten, materialistic West, where all evil resides. Maybe they even continue thinking so. But on the other hand, everybody wanted what they had in the west: to be better dressed with better cars, nicer books and better films. Poland joined the EU exactly five years ago, together with nine other countries. What has been our greatest achievements since we joined? Poland has changed altogether, but it's only those who come here every now and again that notice it. I remember the enormous work by the Polish parliament in order to adapt to the requirements of the acquis communautaire and it was done timely has been implemented almost completely. That's a huge achievement. Take the farmers, They were so afraid of the EU: that they would not be able to consume funding because they did not even have bank accounts and they never had dealt with any documentation. And now it works to a very large extent. But now they have organized themselves, enlarged their farms, restructured them and they are very pro-European today. Structural funds, despite all the criticism that you hear, from the opposition especially, have changed this country completely. And when you see the amount of work going on, on the roads, streets, schools, churches and other cultural heritage projects it is extremely impressive. But what would you say to the shipyard workers who were protesting in Warsaw on Wednesday against EU intervention, with Brussels demanding restructuring and privatising the yards, resulting in many job losses. They do not to seem to be happy with our membership. They are not only unhappy, they are desperate, because they are losing their jobs, most probably. There are programs for creating other jobs for them. But there are regulations in the EU and we must accept them. We have to remember that public money should not finance enterprises that are failing. There has been twelve billion zloty (three billion euro) already put in the shipyard from the pockets of the Polish taxpayer. This, according to the regulations of the EU, is not a healthy situation for the economy. If you stick to those regulations, you can not continue doing this. How would you explain the fact that a year and a half after Poland joined the EU, the electorate voted for a Eurosceptic government? Poland was, I think, the only country in Europe where support for European integration did not decrease after the accession, and it is still growing. But knowledge about how it worked was weak. People didn't realize that through our representatives we can help govern in Europe. It was too abstract for many people. I think that has changed. In the last election the country voted for the pro EU Civic Platform and that was because of young voters, who were afraid that the government led by the Kaczynski brothers marginalized Poland in the EU. This is also an illustration of the process of learning. How would you define Poland's goals for the next five years. What role should we play in the EU? There should be more Poles in important positions in European institutions. Poland faces many challenges. Energy security, global warming. We are also facing immigration from countries that are non-Christian and non-white and we have to prepare for change. Human rights in countries to the east of Poland is also an issue we must concentrate on. And this is a very important issue and neighbours got Poland to be involvement in through the Eastern Partnership.
Polish skeptics become supporters after 5 years in EU DPA 4/30/09 Warsaw - Skeptics were vocal when Poland joined the European Union, but now most Poles are counting the benefits as they mark five years of membership. Poland joined the 27-member bloc on May 1, 2004 amid worries that food prices would soar and Polish communist-style farms would lose against their competitors in the West. But now a majority support the EU. Some 85 per cent are pro-integration, which is up by 20 per cent from five years ago, said analysts at the Institute of Public Affairs, a think-tank in Warsaw. From a restored medieval library near Krakow to a cowboy-style town in Mragowo built to boost regional tourism, Poles are seeing the effects of EU funds as they are pumped into projects across the country. Many Poles turned pro-EU after seeing tangible improvements in their way of life, whether it's travel to Paris without a passport or a higher average income. Poland in the past five years has received some 14 billion euros in EU funds, said a recent government report. "Each year those numbers rise as more and more people see the benefits," said Agnieszka Lada, of the Institute of Public Affairs. "They appreciate the financial support, they see investments being funded by the EU, the possibility of travelling without having to wait in lines at the border, and they think Poland has strengthened its position in the world." But at first there was panic. Housewives stocked up on sugar and worried that prices would soar as Poland entered the bloc. Farmers worried their Soviet-era equipment would be no competition for their Western counterparts, and complained of smaller subsidies they received compared to older EU members. But none of the fears proved true. The farmers who were the EU's toughest critics have now become some of its strongest supporters. "Farmers are one of the biggest beneficiaries of the EU," said financial analyst Tomasz Starus. "They can finally allow themselves state-of-the- art farming equipment, or to buy land. As a rule, the difference is huge between standards and equipment now compared to five years ago." The average income for a Polish farmer in 2008 was 90 per cent higher compared to 2000, said a government report. Membership in the EU has also led to major changes in rural Poland as most farms reached EU standards. But the changes haven't been all positive and a minority of critics remain, including those who the EU left behind. "In ten years, I'd like to say we managed to also take care of these groups that aren't entrepreneurs, farmers and young people," said Anna Radwan, president of the Polish Robert Schuman Foundation, an NGO that educates youth on the EU. Poland could also strive to get more Poles into the union's higher ranks, Radwan said, as the country now lists few politicians in top positions. Others complain of bureaucracy or EU funds that are hard to reach, or worry that Polish identity will be sacrificed in the interest of a unified continent. Maciek Malinowski, a 14-year old student, says criticism comes mainly from older, conservative Poles who remember Soviet or Nazi occupation, and who were left distrustful of other nations and treaties after World War II. He shot footage for a local TV station of anti-EU protests during a recent congress in Warsaw of the European People's Party. About two dozen people protested waving Polish flags, shouting that their capital was "not Brussels, or Washington or Tel Aviv." "Young people laugh sometimes at such displays. Poles need patriotism, but not in this way," Malinowski said. "Polish identity needs to be raised, and there needs to be more education about Poland in schools because young people sometimes know more about the world than about their own nation," he said. "But it's good that we are open to other countries."
Schengen: New Iron Curtain Rising Marcin Wojciechowski Gazeta Wyborcza 2009-05-11
Since their entry to the Schengen zone, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary have been issuing 50 percent less visas for Belarussians, Moldavians, Russians and Ukrainians than before.
'This is threatening to create a new iron curtain', warns Grzegorz Gromadzki at the Batory (Soros) Foundation in Warsaw. The Foundation has carried out research to see how the Visegrad Group countries' visa policies have changed following their entrance to the Schengen zone.
Poland has been in the zone since end-2007. Poles can travel without passport controls virtually throughout Europe. In return, Poland had to tighten its visa regime and raise fees for visa services. As a result, Schengen is becoming for Poland's eastern neighbours a symbol of the EU's growing isolation from the post-Soviet countries.
'The way applicants are treated in the European consulates is humiliating' , says Roman Kabachiy, a well-known Ukrainian journalist, author of an open letter to the Polish ambassador to Kyiv, in which he protests against the way visas are issued.
Mr Kabachiy conducted an experiment. As a member of the press, he should have received the visa for free and via a simplified procedure. But his application was rejected. Unofficially, diplomats told him he would have gotten the visa had he asked for it as a favour, using his contacts at the embassy.
'But I deliberately wanted to follow the procedure closely to show that, despite pledges to the contrary, the system doesn't work', says Mr Kabachiy.
In Minsk, Moscow, Kyiv and Chisinau, jokes are told about which consulates issue visas and to whom. Young, single women, for instance, are particularly discriminated against. Many consuls suspect they are going to be earning their living as prostitutes. And they are refused visas even if their applications and papers are in order.
'The Schengen zone's visa policy has increasingly boiled down to the consul's good will, or lack of it', says a diplomat working beyond Poland's eastern border.
But the situation is somewhat different in each of the Visegrad Group countries.
'The Czechs were the first to introduce visas for the post-Soviet countries and the regime is tight. We simply don't have a common border with them', explains Michal Thim at the Association for International Affairs in Prague.
Slovakia did similarly but is now trying to soften its visa policy.
'The border is dead, the border regions are suffering because of that, and our relations with our neighbours, chiefly Ukraine, have soured', says Vladimir Benc of the Research Center of the Slovak Foreign Policy Association.
Hungary gives preferential treatment chiefly to applicants of Hungarian ethnic origin.
'Poland tries to be flexible. It issues "national visas" for entry only to Poland (chiefly for persons planning to work). But the figures showing a steep fall in the number of Schengen visas issued are indeed alarming', says Olga Wasilewska at the Batory Foundation in Warsaw.
Last year, the number of visas issued by Polish consulates to Belarussians fell by 60 percent, to Ukrainians, by 40 percent, to Moldavians, by 30 percent, and to Russians, by 20 percent.
'The average for the Visegrad Group is some 50 percent', says Mr Gromadzki.
And Hungary? In 2004, it issued nearly 800,000 visas for citizens of the post-Soviet states. Last year, the figure was down to less than 300,000.
'Instead of pledges that the EU will one day scrap the visas altogether, we need specific answers about when and how to simplify the present system', says Mr Thim in Prague.
The Schengen visa is becoming a symbol of Europe's new division. Once the curtain was iron, today it is more like velvet, because the visas are, after all, obtainable. But you have to pay for them, do your share of standing in line, sometimes pay a middleman who, oddly enough, knows how to fix problems. The tight criteria and humiliating procedures hardly make the EU more popular in the post-Soviet countries.
The launch of the Eastern Partnership agenda is a good moment for starting a more serious debate about lifting the visa regime. It is clear that this will not happen overnight. It is also clear that the present economic crisis makes it more difficult for the satiated Europe to contemplate opening itself to its poorer part. But a Europe closed to its neighbours is in contradiction with the essence of the European values.
Ambitious Poles see EU enlargement as an opportunity, not a threat, the BBC's Jonny Dymond reports, as he tours the continent ahead of next month's European elections.
On the ferry between the UK and Sweden I ran into one of the truck drivers making the crossing. He was, he said, earning £14 an hour for his trips. But he was being undercut by Polish drivers who would work for £7 an hour. What was he to do?
His plight was one of the reasons to be in Bialystok, northeastern Poland, headquarters of Adampol, one of the country's biggest transport companies.
Adampol shifts new cars around Europe and out to the East - through Belarus and Ukraine and out into Russia.
The company has been around since 1990. But it was in May 2004, when Poland joined the EU and the border control came down, that the company boomed.
"It's like explaining to a blind man what the day looks like," says the company's ebullient boss, Adam Byglewski, as he tries to illustrate how life changed after Poland's accession to the EU.
"It was like someone waved a magic wand - not only that the queues disappeared but that we could drive to Lithuania, to Germany, to the Czech Republic or Slovakia. Overnight, queues of two three or four days just disappeared. "
So what would he say to the trucker on - a rough exchange - 17 euros an hour, threatened by a driver who'll do the job for nine euros?
"Perhaps we can't expect an English or a Polish driver to understand," he says. "Perhaps we should just say that in a while that Polish driver will head home and he'll earn an 17 euros hour, and [the British trucker] may be earning 19 euros or get back to 17 euros. I don't know. I haven't got an easy answer."
As many as 2.5 million Poles may have left Poland in the past five years to find jobs abroad, there are no decent statistics.
The movement of people - the speed and scale of which can only be compared in Europe to the end of World War II - distorted the country's economy, leaving it short of everything from labourers to teachers to doctors.
Tales of two-year waiting lists for plumbing jobs are legion.
The exodus also slowed internal reform. When all the people with get up and go have got up and gone, there is less pressure to change the pace of regulatory bureaucracies.
But people are coming back to Poland with new skills learnt in foreign capitals.
In a high-ceilinged apartment in central Warsaw, Dobrawa Piekos blow-dries a customer's hair. She spent three years learning her trade in London and has now set up a high-end salon that employs eight.
Dobrawa's House of Hair is a funky outfit, with fake zebra skin wall coverings and bright red chairs facing tall mirrors.
I ask Dobrawa what she makes of the complaints about the number of Poles in Britain - and the call for "British jobs for British workers".
"British people, I've got nothing against them, but I do think that they don't respect jobs," she says. "They are too fussy. They would love to be put on a high position and get good money for less hours and everything. In my country, everything that we have is made by hard work."
The trucker on the ferry didn't fit that description of a work-shy Brit. But it's something you hear from a fair few foreigners who have worked in London.
There is of course another side to the coming and going of Polish workers over the past few years. People like Dobrawa Piekos come back not just with cash saved, but with new skills too, that builds an economy back in Poland.
Mateusz Matula and Jacek Mlodawski spent time working and saving in Ireland before they came back to found an internet business. It now ships contact lenses around the country.
Almost drowning in the cardboard boxes that only recently contained the PCs that litter their office building, they talk about how the Poles that have fled will return.
"What can I say to British people," Mateusz laughs. "Don't worry, it's just temporary. And if Poland as a country will grow it will good for Britain as well.
"We will be good a market for British products. Nowadays we can't afford British products. It's too expensive for us."
So will there come a time when British people might come to Poland in search of work?
"Maybe it will be possible in the future," says Jacek. "But I think it will be ten years or twenty. With every step people in Poland have problems with tax officials, with the inspection of labour, so it is not so easy to start a business here."
"But I believe that the situation may change."
No topic has come up more often on the European "campaign trail" than this one: the growing pains of enlargement are wrenching ones, for both "donor" countries like Poland and recipients like Britain and Ireland.
Some would argue that the "big bang" approach was not such a smart one, given the huge disparity in living standards between East and West, and the rise of cheap travel.
The Poles I've spoken to would disagree. It has liberated them, and allowed them to kick-start businesses back in the home country.
But I still can't think of a smart answer to the trucker I met.
World Agenda: 20 years later, Poland can lead eastern Europe once again Roger Boyes, Berlin timesonline. co.uk 6/4/09
A huge poster of a gun-slinging cowboy is draped down Warsaw's Stalinist-era Palace of Culture to commemorate June 4 1989, the day that Poland had its High Noon showdown with the communists.
Solidarity's victory at the ballot box in the semi-free elections two decades ago was indeed a showdown — but not a shoot-out. As a result, it set the tone for the remarkable year of 1989, the year of bloodless revolutions. If the fiery Poles could get rid of the communists without hanging anyone from the lamp posts, ran the logic, then there was hope for the whole region. Communist governors could surrender or develop exit strategies that would allow them to re-invent themselves in the new emerging order.
It was a remarkable achievement: by the end of the year, all the dominoes had tumbled. And it was the Poles that had defined the terms, shown the possibility of negotiationg a way out of a dictatorship.
Yet there was barely a squeak of triumphalism from the Poles today. Instead, the Polish President Lech Kaczynski and Prime Minister Donald Tusk were at loggerheads over where and how to celebrate the anniversary. President Kaczynski preferred to mark the day in Gdansk, scene of the Solidarity shipyard strike in 1980. Mr Tusk, afraid that unhappy shipyard workers would demonstrate and spoil Poland's image, is marking the day in sedate Krakow in southern Poland. It is a bit of a mess but typical of the tug-of-war between presidents and premiers that has marked much of the past 20 years. The political class that emerged out of the Solidarity dissident movement has never quite resolved its differences. The nationalists claim that Solidarity moderates, by striking a deal with the communists, ensured the continuation of communist networks. The more liberally inclined heirs to Solidarity say that the past is largely irrevelant — the priority is to modernise and europeanise the state.
The tensions still crackle. And the Poles seem a little despondent even on a day that marks one of their real achievements. "Why do we always end up letting our victories dribble away with endless arguments?" sighed a Warsaw friend.
So it is up to well-wishing foreign obervers to tell the Poles to shake off the gloom. The bottle is more than half full. First, despite all the bickering, the Poles have successfully built up strong democratic institutions over the past two decades.
Second, the economy, though flagging a little, is still growing — 0.8 per cent growth in the first quarter, compared with severe contractions in almost every other EU country. Building projects for the 2012 European soccer championships, to be co-hosted with Ukraine, will help to keep employment up and will modernise the transport infrastructure.
Third, the exodus of Poles to work in western Europe is starting to enrich society at home. Young people are returning from Britain with some start-up capital and fresh ideas.
Finally, Poland is again emerging as a regional leader. The Hungarian and Latvian economies are hovering on the brink of meltdown, the Czech government collapsed in the middle of its EU presidency, Bulgaria is being branded as the most corrupt state in the EU. Poland, especially under the Tusk government, is steering a steady course. Certainly relations with the US and western Europe are on an even keel.
Poland could now set the pace for the region, as it did in 1989, by projecting itself eastwards to stabilise the EU borderlands.
Ukraine in particular needs to be told that it has a European perspective, that it is not doomed to permament limbo between an assertive Russia and and an unwelcoming EU. Poland already has a subtle and intelligent policy towards Kiev. Now is the time for the country to recover some of its confidence and build a solid bridge between the EU and its eastern neighbour.
All revolutionaries need a mission for when the barricades are dismantled. This is it: a strong, European-minded Ukraine is in in the interests not only of the Poles, but of the whole EU. Time to stop quarreling in Warsaw, and think about the neighbours.
Goal of Visiting the U.S. Without a Visa Still Eludes Poles By Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska Feet in Two Worlds 6/1/09 In recent years, the Polish government stood by the U.S., strongly supporting President Bush's war on terror by sending troops to Iraq and Afghanistan, and agreeing to install parts of an American missile defense system in its territory. As a demonstration of U.S. gratitude, Poland hoped to be included in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), which would allow Polish citizens to enter the U.S. as tourists or for business purposes for up to 90 days without having to first obtain a visa. But despite extensive negotiations between representatives of both governments Poland's dream has not come true, and the chances of Poland joining the program anytime soon are very slim. Currently all but five European Union member countries participate in the VWP. In addition to Poland, which joined the EU in 1999, the other exceptions are Greece, Cyprus, Romania and Bulgaria. Many Eastern European countries, such as the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania and Slovakia, were accepted into the program in November 2008. Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek said at the time that the decision was "a removal of the last relic of Communism and the Cold War." Poland was omitted largely because it failed to meet the required rate of visa refusals. This rate is considered an indicator of how many applicants plan to overstay their tourist visas and possibly work in the U.S. without permission. Currently, in order to participate in the VWP, a country's visa refusal rate has to be less than 10%. In 2008, Poland had a 13.8% visa refusal rate, which actually was considered a big success since only a year earlier it was almost twice as high. Moreover, nowadays fewer Poles seem interested in coming to the U.S. Instead, some look for employment within the EU, where many countries have opened their job markets to Polish citizens. For these reasons, it seemed that the visa refusal rate would soon naturally fall below the required 10% percent and further negotiations between Polish and U.S. officials would not even be necessary. However, starting July 1, the required rate will be reduced to 3%, making it much harder for Poland to reach the goal. "This change is a consequence of a bizarre compromise reached by supporters and opponents of the expansion of the VWP in Congress as part of the `Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007,'" explains Pawel Kotowski, a counselor at the Polish Embassy in Washington, DC. "The required rate can now only be increased back to 10% if the U.S. manages to install biometric air exit systems which will register all the passengers leaving the U.S.by air, a system now only used upon arrival to the U.S. These two things seem to be entirely independent, but that's how the Congress wrote the law," Kotowski said. It is not certain when the air exit system will be installed. Department of Homeland Security spokesperson Anna Hinken says it will be tested at two airports for one month starting in June, and it should be installed around the country sometime next year. Kotowski, however, worries that it may take much longer. Many members of the Polish American community are upset over the arrangement. After an article on the matter ran recently in Nowy Dziennik/the Polish Daily News, many readers expressed their disappointment at the American policy. Some even called for imposing visas on American citizens who want to enter Poland. Supporters of Poland in Congress have fought for many years for a more liberal approach. Some, like Senator Barbara Mikulski (D.-Md.), proposed various pieces of legislation to include Poland in the VWP for its merits and its loyalty to America. But the VWP has many opponents who fear its expansion will make it easier for potential terrorists to enter the U.S. Without the appropriate legislation it seems unlikely that President Obama will do anything about this issue, even though during the presidential campaign he supported the inclusion of Poland in the VWP. Department of Homeland Security spokesman Matt Chandler says that efforts are ongoing to gradually solve the issue. "Countries like Poland, who are seeking inclusion in the Visa Waiver Program, are working with the Department to meet the program's requirements. This includes lowering non-immigrant visa refusal rates. The Department is also working with Poland to facilitate safe and secure travel through the U.S.," he said. Chandler would not, however, provide any details about the process. This is not enough for Polish Americans and supporters of Poland's inclusion in the program. "America's visa policy still treats Poland as a second-class citizen when we tell a grandmother in Gdansk she needs a visa to visit her grandchildren in America," wrote Senator Mikulski in a statement sent to the Polish Daily News. "The Visa Waiver Program is a critical tool of the 'smart power' strategy that President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton have laid out to reinvigorate American foreign policy." For Poland, inclusion in the VWP has become primarily a political issue. "We understand that the legislation sets up the rules. But these rules are archaic and do not reflect our current strategic partnership, " stresses Pawel Kotowski. "We think that the American authorities should consider this little gesture for Poland. It would tremendously improve America's image among Poles who have always held strong pro-American sentiment. It would also improve the relationship with America's most trusted ally in Europe."
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Illinois Congressman Asks Obama to Add Poland to Visa Waiver Program By Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska Feet in Two Worlds 6/1/09 Rep. Mike Quigley (D.-Ill.), a newly elected congressman from Chicago, has wasted no time in addressing a key concern of the Polish community in Illinois’ 5th district. Last Friday, Quigley called on President Barack Obama to support Poland’s plea for inclusion in the Visa Waiver Program — a matter we reported on last week. “Poland has proven to be an indispensable ally in the global campaign against terrorism,” wrote Quigley in a press release. Including Poland in the Visa Waiver Program will have positive security, economic, and bilateral effects. In addition, there are thousands of Polish-Americans in my district alone who would benefit by making it easier to have a loved one visit them, not to mention the local businesses that would benefit from tourism dollars. We owe it to a country that has stood by us, and to the people who would like to visit the United States. Quigley, a former member of the Cook County Board of Commissioners, won the special election held on April 7, 2009 to replace Rahm Emanuel after he vacated the seat in order to serve as Obama’s White House Chief of Staff. One of Quigley’s rivals in the race was Victor Forys, a Polish immigrant who, despite the large percentage of Polish Americans in the 5th district (17% of all residents), ended up fourth in the special Democratic primary.
German president: ties with Poland close to heart Associated Press 2009-07-13
German President Horst Koehler has underlined the importance of ties with Poland by visiting the eastern European country on his first trip abroad in his second term. Koehler began that term as Germany's head of state on July 1. On Monday he met with Polish leaders in Warsaw, saying the visit is a sign that Poland remains "close to our heart."
Despite a strong alliance, the legacy of World War II still looms large between the two nations with memories raw in Poland of the cruelty and killing unleashed on Poles by Hitler's forces.
Koehler also said he plans during his second term to visit his birth town, Skierbieszow. The eastern Polish town was occupied and settled by Germans when Koehler was born in 1943.
70 years on, Poland's WWII wounds haven't healed By VANESSA GERA Associated Press 2009-08-30
Back home in Germany, Erika Steinbach is hardly a household name. But in neighboring Poland she is a national hate figure, caricatured on magazine covers as a Nazi in SS uniform. Her offense, in Polish eyes, is that she claims to speak for the millions of ethnic Germans who were expelled from their homes in Poland and elsewhere in eastern Europe after World War II. These accusers say she is revising history and drawing a moral parallel between the cruelties the Germans inflicted and the sufferings they later endured.
The recriminations go to the heart of the resentments that still bubble up from the war that broke out with Hitler's attack on Poland on Sept. 1, 1939.
Today, as Polish, German and Russian leaders join on Tuesday to mark the anniversary, Polish-German relations are at one level an idyll of open borders and shared membership in the prosperous, democratic European Union.
But at another level, they are one rancorous episode after another: a Polish prime minister demanding greater voting power in European forums to make up for Poland's war-related loss of population; a German magazine article that stirs Polish outrage by saying Germany had the willing help of Poles and others in executing its genocidal actions; and now a new museum in Berlin, championed by Steinbach, that will exhibit the hardships of the world's refugees through history, especially the wartime Germans.
Steinbach, 67, strenuously denies minimizing Poland's afflictions. But she is a lightning rod for Poles' fears that future generations of Germans will grow up in a historical muddle about the war and its aftermath.
"We'll probably reach a point _ and we are hearing this already _ that Germans suffered equally because someone expelled them from somewhere and that they were killed as well," complains Jacek Patoka, a 42-year-old Polish businessman.
What irks the Poles most is Steinbach and her Federation of the Expellees, the group that demands recognition of the suffering inflicted on some 14 million Germans when the postwar borders were redrawn and they were driven out of their homes.
When Steinbach pushed for the Berlin museum, Poland's government was indignant, seeing it as a sign that Germans were trying to play down their crimes and highlight their own suffering and resistance to Hitler's regime.
"We don't like these activities," said Romualda Tudrej, an 82-year-old woman who fought in Poland's anti-Nazi resistance. "The Germans are unfortunately changing history a little. There's a new generation now and this generation wants to have heroes, and not the bandits that it actually had for ancestors."
As tempers rose, Poland lobbied to block Steinbach's appointment to head the board of the planned museum. It would be tantamount to putting a Holocaust-denier in charge of relations with Israel, charged Wladyslaw Bartoszewski, an Auschwitz survivor and Polish government representative on German issues, in an interview with Poland's Dziennik newspaper.
After much discussion between Warsaw and Berlin, Poland last year consented to a German government-backed museum in Berlin to be called the "Center against Expulsions." That was after it was assured by Chancellor Angela Merkel that the exhibit would include information on expulsions of other peoples worldwide and throughout history.
At a gathering of Steinbach's federation Aug. 23, Merkel defended the idea, saying that the history of flight and expulsions is "part of our national identity and part of our shared cultural memory." But she insisted it did not mean Germany wants to diminish its responsibility for starting the war.
"We will not forget: This was a direct consequence of the German war and the Nazi tyranny," she said. "Yes, we admit our responsibility for the darkest chapter in Germany's history _ there is no reinterpretation of history."
Many Poles are still not convinced, and to them, Steinbach's own biography is salt in their wounds: Her family was not native to Poland, but came there when her father was assigned to the German occupation forces as a Luftwaffe technician.
Steinbach represents Merkel's Christian Democratic Union in the parliament, which sharpens Polish suspicions that her views are close to the mainstream.
Steinbach's supporters say she is being maligned. They note that she has distanced herself from even more controversial efforts by a tiny number of Germans to regain prewar family property now in Poland.
At her federation's gathering, she made a point of stressing that Nazi Germany was ultimately responsible for the fate of the expelled Germans. "Our fate was preceded by something atrocious," she said.
But she insisted that her country had the right to commemorate the plight of Germans who faced "malice and viciousness" when forced from parts of Eastern Europe. Some were killed, beaten or murdered in revenge by Poles, Czechs and others.
Both Poland and Germany preserve reminders of the war. The Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, with its spire broken by Allied bombing and never restored, is a landmark of the Berlin cityscape. In Warsaw's war museum, the first thing visitors see is rubble salvaged from the capital's bombed royal castle, a historic seat of Polish kings, sending a clear message that the best of the nation was demolished by Nazi atrocities.
Now Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk has launched plans for another war museum in Gdansk, a city with a mixed German and Polish history that took some of the opening salvos of the war.
Gdansk is where Merkel and Russian Prime Minister Vladmir Putin will join Polish President Lech Kaczynski and Prime Minister Tusk in commemorating the outbreak of the war.
To most Germans, the expelled are a marginal issue, of relevance only to an elderly, dwindling group, and the Poles' fears tend to be seen as exaggerated or unfounded.
They can point to the hundreds of memorials across Germany honoring victims of the Nazis, the compensation Germany paid to millions of Hitler's victims, the more than $22 billion invested by Germans in Poland since the Cold War ended.
Relations are much better between younger Poles and Germans, especially those who have studied or worked in each other's countries.
"I have nothing against Germans," said Piotr Roguski, 39, a real estate agent in Warsaw. "For me contemporary Germans and the Germans of World War II are two different things."
Among Polish youth, German army jackets are considered cool attire, much to their elders' dismay.
Angelica Schwall-Dueren, of the German-Polish Society that promotes cooperation and cross-border exchanges between the two nations, calls today's relationship a "political and humanitarian miracle," given the shared horrors of the past.
And what horrors they were. Less than three weeks after the Germans attacked, the Soviet army invaded from the east. The Nazis regarded Poles as an inferior race. Centuries of shared history, during which innumerable Germans had settled in what is now Poland, became a master-slave relationship. The Germans blitzed Polish cities and built Auschwitz on Polish soil. At the end of the war, 6 million Polish citizens out of a prewar population of 35 million were dead _ half of them Jews, half Christians.
The war left Poland feeling massively betrayed _ by its Western allies who failed to come to their aid; by the Soviet army that first invaded it, then stood aside as the Germans crushed the country; and by the postwar settlement that opened the way to 40 years of communist dictatorship.
Poland today has 38 million people to Germany's 82 million, which qualifies it as medium-sized in a European Union where voting is weighted by population size. And even that ties in to the war. In arguing in 2007 for enhanced voting rights, the then prime minister, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, argued: "If it hadn't had to live through the years 1939-1945, Poland would today be a country of 66 million."
Sep 10th 2009 From Economist.com How east Europe can step over history's long shadow
TWO of the five most-commented-on articles on The Economist’s website last week were about east European history. One concerned the icy relations between Slovakia and Hungary. The other was about Russia’s failure (in some eyes) to apologise properly for the Soviet past.
In each case the tone of the comments was often strikingly unpleasant, with sweeping accusations of anti-Semitism, genocide, imperialism, treachery and mendacity. It would be easy for outsiders to conclude that the ex-communist countries are prisoners of their past, tediously fighting the same old battles with the same old stereotypes.
All the more reason, therefore, to highlight the happy state of Polish-Ukrainian relations, which is especially remarkable given the two countries’ miserable common history.
AP Make grins, not war
Take just a few events from (nearly) living memory. In interwar Poland, Ukrainians suffered savage repression; seen from another viewpoint, they behaved disloyally and ungratefully towards their country. During the war, the Ukrainian Insurrectionary Army murdered some 60,000 Poles in Volhynia. Were they vicious Nazi stooges or fighters for their country’s stolen independence?
In 1945 Polish anti-communist soldiers shot hundreds of Ukrainians in the village of Pawlokoma. That was either an understandable retaliatory action for previous anti-Polish atrocities in the region, or a brutal and unprovoked massacre. In 1947 the country’s new Communist rulers deported 200,000 Ukrainian-speakers from south-eastern Poland. That could be seen as Bolshevik barbarity, or evidence of Polish ethnic nationalism. The town known as Lwow in interwar Poland is now in Ukraine. Some think that is where it should be, others think it tragically stranded. And so on.
These are true controversies, about which even the best historians disagree. Evidence for what exactly happened and why is scanty and needs careful weighing. Just as it would be lazy and wrong simply to apportion equal blame to both sides, it would also be wrong to paint the history as a one-dimensional story of vicious Ukrainian attacks on Poles (or vice versa). The Wikipedia discussion pages for these events give a good flavour of the passions aroused and the scope of the disagreements.
What is commendable, though, is the way in which politicians have behaved. For 20 years Polish and Ukrainian leaders have worked hard to accentuate their countries’ shared history and common tragedy, rather than stoke disagreements for political ends. In 2006, for example, presidents Lech Kaczynski and Viktor Yushchenko (pictured above) jointly unveiled a memorial in Pawlokoma. Previously, the Ukrainian authorities had supported the restoration of a war memorial in what is now Lviv, for Polish soldiers who died in the 1918-1920 war. This week Mr Yushchenko visited Poland, laying yet more wreaths jointly with his host.
That is not just good business for florists. It could be a template for other countries seeking to step over the shadow of history. Neither Poland nor Ukraine tries to rub each other’s nose in its wrongdoing, nor does either insist on seeing their own soldiers as untainted heroes. Neither side expects the other to see history exactly its own way. Much more important is to focus on the common factors: the conflicts between Poles and Ukrainians were made immeasurably worse by the activities of outside powers, Nazis and communists alike. Disagreements remain, but are eased by practical cooperation. The planned Polish-Ukrainian-Baltic military brigade is a good example of this. Only 65 years ago, Ukrainians, Lithuanians and Poles were killing each other.
A joint Polish-Belarusian-Russian peacekeeping force serving in some troubled and faraway corner of the world may seem unimaginable now. But it is not impossible. Poland and Ukraine have shown readiness to overcome some of their most painful historical traumas. Can Russia do the same?
A short footage explains why Germans come to Poland and find it attractive. 1. German drivers pass their license test in Poland. Cheaper and fewer road signs. But they must have a permanent address in Poland. No problem. Residents of border villages are eager to offer legal accomodation to German drivers for a small fee. 2. German men say about Polish women: they are hot! They have this sth, not like our German females. 3. German women come to have a plastic operation in Poland. Cheaper and friendlier. 4. German women come to have hair done. E.g., 30 hairdresser`s in one border village work 24/24. 5. Filling car tanks and shopping is also attractive in Poland. 5. Polish mushroom hunters pick up mushrooms on the German soil, because Germans have no tradition of picking, then take them to Poland where Germans willingly buy them on road stalls.
A new slogan has been inveneted: Dear Germans! Come to Poland! Your mushrooms are already here!!!!! ;D ;D ;D ;D ;D ;D ;D
PS2. Doesn`t it remind you of Americans in Mexico? ;D ;D ;D ;D ;D ;D
PS. Mike, can you be nice for a while and say sth favourable about Germans? E.g., about this German Mercedes car you drive in US??? ;D ;D ;D ;D ;D ;D
Poland Signs Lisbon Treaty By MAREK STRZELECKI The Wall Street Journal OCTOBER 10, 2009
WARSAW -- Polish President Lech Kaczynski on Saturday signed the European Union's Lisbon Treaty, making Poland the 26th E.U. country that has ratified the document.
After Mr. Kaczynski's signature, the only remaining holdout would be his euro-skeptic Czech counterpart Vaclav Klaus.
The Lisbon Treaty has to be approved by all 27 E.U. member states to come into force.
The treaty aims to streamline the running of the E.U., which has nearly doubled in size in the past five years as a number of ex-communist countries such as Poland have joined.
Polish lawmakers ratified the treaty in April 2008 but Mr. Kaczynski refused to complete the process in the wake of Irish voters' rejection of the text in a referendum that June.
Mr. Kaczynski repeatedly said that Poland did not want to block the treaty as such but that he would wait until the Irish approved it.
He argued that the E.U.'s big member states -- Poland, which joined in 2004, has a population of 38 million -- should not lay down the law for small countries like Ireland.
Irish voters backed the treaty last week in a second referendum.
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Polish president ratifies EU reform treaty By RYAN LUCAS AP 10/10/09
WARSAW, Poland — Poland's president completed his country's ratification of the European Union reform treaty on Saturday — leaving the Czech Republic as the only nation yet to sign off on the agreement.
President Lech Kaczynski signed Poland's ratification of the so-called Lisbon Treaty, which seeks to increase the 27-nation bloc's influence by streamlining its decision-making process, at a ceremony attended by European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and other EU dignitaries.
"I'm deeply convinced that this next great experiment will be a success," Kaczynski told those gathered at the mirrored hall at Poland's presidential palace.
"Within the framework of cooperation among sovereign states, we will achieve even better results — in the interest of individual states, in the interest of Europe as a whole and in the interest of the world," he said.
Poland's parliament overwhelmingly approved ratification last year, but Kaczynski's signature was still needed to complete the process.
To come into force, the reform treaty must be ratified by all 27 EU nations.
Both houses of the Czech parliament have approved ratification, but it still needs the signature of President Vaclav Klaus, an EU skeptic and vocal opponent of the treaty.
Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, whose country holds the EU presidency, urged Klaus to complete his ratification so the treaty can come into force Jan. 1.
"Europe eagerly awaits (for) this to happen," Reinfeldt said. "We do not need more delays."
The Czech president says he is waiting on a ruling from the nation's Constitutional Court on a challenge from 17 senators questioning aspects of the charter before putting his final stamp of approval on it.
President Lech Kaczynski signed the Lisbon Treaty Ratification Bill at midday, Saturday, after delaying his signature for a year and half.
The Lisbon Treaty signed by EU leaders in December 2007, is designed to improve the functioning of an enlarged EU, with a simpler decision-making process.
The treaty envisages the creation of a permanent President of the European Council and an EU foreign ministry.
In his speech at the signing ceremony, President Kaczynski said that the process of enlargement will not end with the implementation of the Lisbon Treaty.
“I am deeply convinced that this is not the end. That this cannot be the end. Croatia will probably join the union soon. But should not be the last country. The EU, a great precedent in history, as an institution, should not be closed,” he told guests including President of the European Parliament, Jerzy Buzek, Prime Minister of Poland Donald head of European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso, President of the European Parliament Jerzy Buzek, Prime Minister, Swedish PM and current president of the EU Frederik Reinfeldt.
President Kaczynski also explained why he delayed signing the treaty for the 557 days since Poland’s houses of parliament voted for the document. He said that all 27 nations in the EU must agree to the treaty, otherwise it simply doesn’t exist.
“For many months I have said that ratification will take place when the Irish people, in accordance with the Constitution of the Republic of Ireland, change the view they expressed [in the June 2008 referendum]. Poland was and will be a sovereign country. The Poles, or the Irish, should decide on the acceptance of the treaty or its refusal. On the surface this is true, this is our decision, but in the EU after the treaty is signed, the principle of unanimity will only apply in the most important issues.
"Now that the decision of the Irish people has changed means that the treaty has been revived," Lech Kaczyñski said.
Meanwhile, 60 members of the opposition Law and Justice party have submitted a request to the Constitutional Tribunal to see if the Lisbon Treaty is in accordance with Poland‘s constitution.
“We think that it is essential to check the constitutionality of the Lisbon Treaty,” say the MPs, as reported in the ultra-conservative newspaper Nasz Dziennik.
This week, 17 Czech senators also sent the treaty to their Constitutional Tribunal. Yesterday, Czech president Vlaclav Klaus asked for an opt-out from the Charter of Fundamental Rights - as the UK has already achieved - fearing property claims from German expellees at the end of WW II.
Germany and Poland join hands across the Oder euronews 10/21/09
Its six fifteen a.m. this is Berlin, Bogdan Kazimirek catches the eastbound Eurocity train to Poznan in Poland, the Polish frontier is just 60 kilometres from the German capital.
The German and Polish border regions have decided to join forces and link their economies and administrations. It Is known as the Oderpartnership.
Bogdan is a border-hopper, he feels at home in both countries and speaks both languages.
As a trainee in the Oderpartnership "Pro-Polska" programme, Bogdan receives professional training in Germany and Poland.
Bogdan Kazimirek, Pro-Polska trainee, Berlin Senate Department for Economics:
"The good thing about Pro-Polska is the five months work experience. We get in touch with the people over the border, we make friendships. After the traineeship. These contacts can be useful for finding work. The knowledge of language is crucial. There are lots of people in Poland speaking German. But it is easier to approach people when you can speak their own language."
Shortly after sunrise we cross the river Oder into Poland. Since the country joined the Schengen agreement, the border is an open crossing. The German and Polish flags caught in an embrace, this is the unifying symbol of the Oderpartnership, that brings together 21 million people with a GDP of around 300 billion euros a year.
Bogdan spent his Polish work experience in the accounts department of a German company, which has a Polish branch in the city of Poznan and completes his training in the Berlin Senate.
Poznan is developing quickly and is interested in closer ties with Germany. It is a place where 40 per cent of pupils learn German in school.
Berlin and Poznan produce a bi-lingual publication aimed at the business community, mainly small and medium sized enterprises.
It details regional, national and European support schemes, listing phone numbers, web-links and business contacts, it is a tool for entrepreneurs planning to invest on the other side of the border.
PSI Poland is a branch of the Berlin based PSI group, which develops software systems. Having gone through hard times a few years ago, PSI decided to change it's strategy and "go global". Establishing a Polish branch helped save the company. PSI recovered and now employs 1,400 people worldwide.
Arkadiusz Niemira is the General Manager of PSI Poland:
"To be honest, we have here a win-win situation, on one hand PSI benefits from relatively low hourly rates here in Poland. Thanks to this, PSI can be more competitive on the global market. On the other hand we sell PSI products on the Polish market. From the moment we established PSI Poland, the number of PSI employees in Germany has gone up."
There is a new Oderpartnership project underway, called "Finance for Innovation." Small and medium sized enterprises wanting to enter into international markets can get better credit conditions through a transnational fund.
There are German and Polish coordinators of the partnership. On the German side, the Oderpartnership is run from the so-called "red town hall" in Berlin.
Harald Wolf is the economy minister in the Berlin Senate:
"The enlargement of the European Union gives new opportunities to rebuild this economic region, to develop cooperation, to bring together companies, in particular small and medium sized enterprises. By doing this, we will get more growth and thereby more employment on both sides of the Oder."
For centuries there have been close trade links between the cities in the region. These 180-year old panels show the trade-routes of the Berlin based tobacco trader Ermeler, which sold its wares in Italy, France and Poland.
The Berlin-based "Scandinavian Holz", branch of an Estonian company, selling panels for construction from Russia and Brazil to Poland. For 12-months, the European Fund for Regional Development and the Berlin-region pay half of Agnes' and Agneta's salary, the bilingual marketing assistants are trained to research the regional timber market and to find clients in Poland.
Before , the managing director tried on his own without success, but with the support of Agnes and Agneta, new deals have been signed.
Stanislaw Stroh is the Managing Director of Scandinavian Holz:
"Being based in Berlin instead of operating only in the Baltic States, trading with Poland becomes easier. There are very short distances between clients. And we have a large number of Polish citizens, living here in Berlin. Among them we can find qualified employees."
The next stop off for our Pro-Polska trainee Bogdan is Berlin's technical university.
One in five students here carry a foreign passport. China, Turkey and Poland are the main countries of origin.
The president of the technical university invited his polish colleagues into the Oderpartnership region to improve contacts.
Lukasz Hady likes the idea and stresses the advantages of his German-Polish double-diploma:
Lukasz Hady is an Engineer at the technical university:
"The question if I will work here or in Poland is still an open question for me. But there are opportunities on both sides of the border. – Comparing Germany and Poland, I have the feeling that there are some different methods, different ways of approaching a scientific problem, and that's why it's important to have this experience and to obtain this German-Polish double-diploma. "
For his research on telecommunication, Adam Wolisz is world famous. He works in Berkley and Berlin.
Adam Wolisz, Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at Berlin's technical university:
"I believe that the exchange of lecturers and the mobility of students can play an extremely important role. – There is this medieval tradition of years of travel to study. That should be part of university study today as well. And this is exactly the difference between studying and going to school: to form ones own view by listening to different teachers who are lecturing from different viewpoints, then you make up your own mind; this is one of the big benefits you get when listening to a plurality of voices."
The Oderpartnership provides the environment where a relationship between nations goes beyond the usual diplomatic ties.
Poland pleased German foreign mininster to visit New German FM Westerwelle will visit Poland this week on his first official trip abroad, Poland's prime minister said. Friday, 30 October 2009
New German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle will visit Poland this week on his first official trip abroad, Poland's prime minister said on Friday, welcoming it as a sign of improving ties between the countries. Chancellor Angela Merkel's new cabinet was sworn in on Wednesday and her coalition government's agreement gave a special mention to Polish-German ties, which had been under strain in recent years.
"I was very happy when I learned that our foreign ministers agreed such a quick visit. Polish-German relations are as good as ever and we must do all we can to make them even better," said Donald Tusk told a news conference.
Historical rows dating back to World War Two have traditionally weighed on relations between Warsaw and Berlin and hit rock bottom under Poland's previous, eurosceptic, government of Jaroslaw Kaczynski, a conservative.
Kaczynski's twin brother and Poland's president, Lech, will receive Westerwelle on his trip to Warsaw on Saturday.
"This is not by chance. It shows our desire for good neighbourly relations with our eastern neighbour," Westerwelle said about his trip, which includes a meeting with Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski.
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Poland gets special attention from top German diplomat DW 10/31/09
Guido Westerwelle made his first trip as German foreign minister to Poland on Saturday. This first visit to eastern rather than western Europe sets a new tone for the government's foreign policy.
In a bid to strengthen Germany's ties with its eastern neighbors, Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle chose Warsaw as the destination of his first official state visit on Saturday. Following a two-hour meeting with his counterpart Radoslaw Sikorski, Westerwelle said that deepening relations with Poland would be one his "core concerns".
He told journalists after the meeting that a strong friendship between the two countries was not only good for the people of Germany and Poland, but good for the whole of Europe, adding that it was his intention to make the partnership with Poland as strong as it is with Germany's western neighbors.
German-Polish relations at their strongest ever
Sikorski received the new foreign minister enthusiastically, saying that relations between Germany and Poland were currently better than they'd ever been in history.
Polish President Lech Kaczynski also received Westerwelle on Saturday afternoon, showing him the room where representatives of Poland's communist regime had negotiated with the democratic opposition in 1989. A German diplomat called the mini-tour "a personal gesture" of the president. Kaczynski has previously expressed concern about Germany's dominance in the European Union.
Looking East first
The visit to Poland comes as something of a surprise, since previous German foreign ministers have generally traveled westward to Paris first on their debut trips. But Chancellor Angela Merkel's new government, sworn in on Wednesday, have emphasized the importance of Polish-German ties.
Westerwelle had announced on Thursday that he would pay special attention to strengthening relations with Germany's eastern European neighbors. "This is not by chance. It shows our desire for good neighborly relations with our eastern neighbor," Westerwelle said.
Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said it was a "very good sign" that Westerwelle' s first state visit was to Poland. "Poland and Germany are well aware that bilateral relations are very good," Tusk said, "We must do all we can to make them even better."
Tusk and Westerwelle met in Brussels during the EU summit on Thursday and Friday.
I still say, never trust the Germans, ever. But that is just me, and I hate what they did to Poland, and her people in WWII. Mike
Younger generation in Poland doesn`t care about what Germans did to Poles in the past. It`s only our, oldies`, obsessive rememberance. ;D ;D ;D ;D Mike, try to stop thinking about Germans in such negative context. Think positive for a while. You will feel younger, I am sure. Whenever I feel positive about them, it seems to me I am 20 years old.
Positive, I don't like them, and don't think ever will. The ones that I meet when traveling, were not nice, even those traveling here in the States are not nice, Why?
Mike you must have been very unlucky. The Germans are generally very likeable, easy going people. They do however generally have this unnice feature than some of them deeply dislike us, the Poles. Also I tend to disagree with Bo, when he says that the Polish attitude towards Germans or Germany varies accordingly to generational differences.