2006-12-01 Bogdan Zaryn
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Are the Poles the biggest europhiles on the continent?

While the number of Turks supporting EU membership has been steadily falling over the past year, hitting an all time low of about 30% - a public opinion survey just released in Poland this week suggests that people there are head over heals in love with the European Union. Even former Eurosceptics seemed to have been reconciled with the EU. What are some of the reasons behind this positive trend?

The latest survey on Polish opinion about EU membership suggests that 88% or 9 out of 10 Poles are in favor of the European Union. Poland joined the bloc in 2004. Since then 2 million Poles have migrated to established EU-member states - the UK, Ireland and Sweden - in search of employment. Rafał Dymek from the Polish Chapter of the Robert Schuman Foundation says that Poles have so far benefited greatly from membership in several ways.

”Economic growth firstly. Poland last year had about a 5-6% economic growth and membership is one of the reasons for this. Secondly, the free market, we can travel abroad all over Europe without any formal complications. Free market of goods and services and of course EU funds which help Polish communities build new roads, industries, etc”.

Polish and EU flags hanging next to each otherPolish and EU flags hanging next to each other
But what about Poland’s Eurosceptics? Far right-wing nationalist and populist parties were trying to convince Poles that joining the EU would be detrimental to their county’s national interests. Their negative EU party line fell on deaf ears. In the EU accession referendum three years ago, 78 % of Poles said Yes to membership. Today 65% of voters belonging to the rightist League of Polish Families which was against EU membership from the very start, have given a thumbs up to membership. Maciej Giertych, who represents the League in the European Parliament, says that the recent row over the meat export ban to Russia has prompted League supporters to side with the EU.

”With all the difficulties we are having with Russia I don’t think that people would want to see Poland standing alone right now. I think that’s the main reason.”

Courting the European Union was long, tedious and not exactly romantic as one would expect. The honeymoon has long been over. Warsaw’s voice is now being heard in the EU in the row over meat exports to Russia. Though France and Lithuania have sided with Poland so far, engaging Russia to work alongside the EU still remains problematic. Public opinion however seems confident that Poland has a better chance of winning battles as a member of the club of 25 than if Warsaw would go at it alone.

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