Integration process

Poland’s Transition into a New Millenium

Poland’s Transition into a New Millenium

This review is a personal interpretation of the book Poland into the New Millennium, by Blazyca, G. and Rapacki, R.; Cheltenham: Edward Elgar 2001.

With over a decade’s experience of transition this edited volume engages with the dynamics of systemic change in Poland. Since 1989 Poland has been frequently regarded as one of the more ‘successful’ transformations with soubriquets such as the ‘soaring Polish eagle’ readily applied. However, Poland into the New Millennium charts a more tentative line than the rhetoric of capitalist triumphalism. The volume discusses three main issues. First, the impact of a decade of transition; many of the contributors have been involved in the process as activists or politicians and not just commentators from the sidelines. Second, the book evaluates where Poland is now, with some dispute between the various chapters. Finally, contributors address the possible future trajectory of transition Poland.

Containing fourteen substantive chapters, the volume is divided into three sections. The first section, Political Economy, Society and Politics, benefits from the inclusion of a chapter by new Finance Minister Marek Belka, indicating where future economic policy might lead in his rejection of virulent neo-liberalism and instead emphasising the necessity for social cohesion. Tadeusz Kowalik’s chapter offers a more circumspect analysis of transition. He gives prominence to the losers rather than the winners of transition, decrying the emergent ‘crony capitalism’ (44). Wnuk-Lipinski offers a longer historical investigation of the changes in Poland, highlighting processes initiated in the 1970s to compare the disjuncture between the ‘social geography’ (67) of support between pre and post 1989 Solidarity. The fourth chapter by Pankow and Gaciarz explores the role of trade unions in contemporary industrial relations. Ironically, in the land of Solidarity they observe that the trade union has become a weakened institution lacking respect from worker and management alike. The final chapter by Aleks Szczerbiak unravels the complexities of the partial consolidation of party politics. His lucid outline of the diverse orientations in party politics illustrates the dominant role played by values rather than group interests in forming political identity.

Section two, Economic Performance, Institutional and Sectoral Transformations, commences with Rapacki’s detailed chapter on Polish GDP developments since 1990. This is an excellent collection of the relevant data but one that raises many questions as to the future competitiveness of the Polish economy. Jan Macieja also notes the emergence of crony capitalism but implicates state interference as the source. His solution is even more liberalisation and deregulation. Gorski’s chapter on the financial sector in the 1990s provides a useful survey of changes in banking and the activities of foreign capital. It complements neatly the following chapter on pension reform by Marek Gora. However, both accept the neo-liberal line and provide striking examples of Polish attempts to exceed even the wishes of the IMF for reform. The last two chapters in this section explore regional policy (Gorzelak) and the agricultural sector (Wilkin). Gorzelak assumes that economic Darwinism (228) will overcome the clearly visible regional disparities in income and development. Wilkin’s contribution on agriculture provides a depressing testimony of rural life. Having already lost out in the 1990s from too much shock and not enough therapy, farmers are set to suffer even more with entry to the EU. As if this is not enough, Wilkin also emphasises that the possibilities for reform in the sector are hampered by political inertia.

In the final section, International Dimensions of Poland’s Transformation, George Blazyca gives an account of Poland’s position in the international economy. While the reorientation of international trade from East to West has been successful, his exhaustive survey probes problematic issues like the burgeoning current account deficit, the impact of foreign investment and the quality of the changes since 1989. He concludes on the discouraging note that Poland faces yet more difficult choices between (neo) liberal and interventionist policies to rectify the growing threat of trade imbalance. Orlowski’s chapter concentrates on appraising potential EU accession. Noting the development gap between East and West and the unprecedented nature of the challenge for Poland and the EU, Orlowski offers a credible argument for the return to Europe, coming down squarely in favour of the importance of real convergence with the EU economies. The final chapter by Christopher Bobinski, recounts the ‘Bristol Appeal’ (297) where the seven post-communist prime ministers were asked whether political leaders could work together to achieve EU accession. Through this device Bobinski covers the taxing issues facing Poland into the new millennium. He too strikes a note of caution concerning the EU; warning domestic acceptance of membership is no longer a foregone conclusion (305).

Poland into the New Millennium is a welcome addition to the literature on transition. It is published at a time of great uncertainty in the Polish transformation with possible EU accession in the near future, continued macroeconomic problems of high inflation and a weak current account balance further compounded by escalating unemployment and the demographic effects of ‘Jaruzelski’s revenge’. It is published at an opportune moment just as Poles voted in an election that witnessed the disintegration of Solidarity as a major political force.

As far as the volume’s stated aims are concerned this is mostly an excellent survey of the first decade of systemic transformation, raising interesting questions concerning the pace of reform and the balance between economic growth and social equality. The collection illustrates that while political and economic transition is firmly embedded the quality of these changes remains far from balanced. There is also the worrying spectre that transition might never be complete with Poland (and other transition states) consigned to the European periphery. More ambiguous is the evaluation of Poland’s future. Many of the contributors remain optimistic despite evidence to the contrary.

Edited volumes like this are often betrayed by a lack of coherence and consistency, but this is a criticism that cannot be levelled here. Indeed, it is perhaps the lack of consistency among the various contributors that signals a most profitable line of enquiry. The editors have gathered together an impressive array of transition ‘observer/activists’. This is one of the most interesting facets of this book, featuring a high proportion of those who operate at the interstices of politics, international institution and academia. However, one of the drawbacks of this approach is the pervasive optimism of indigenous contributors. This jars slightly, especially when so many of the chapters expose the shifting sands beneath the ‘success’ of Polish transition. These criticisms aside, for anyone with an interest in transition the intimate familiarity with the process portrayed here is fascinating and for those specifically interested in Poland it is essential reading.

Mission of Romania to the European Union

Cooperation within NATO and economic ties among the issues to be tackled by Traian Basescu and George Bush
Bucharest, March 4 /Rompres/ – Foreign Minister Mihai-Razvan Ungureanu in an interview with Rompres said the agenda of the nearing meeting between Romanian President Traian Basescu and American President George W. Bush is likely to include the aspects of cooperation within NATO as well as elements of the bilateral ties, including economic aspects.

Czech Republic to offer Romania support for any technical matter of EU accession
Bucharest, March 3 /Rompres/ – Czech Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda, currently on a visit to Romania, said during talks on Thursday with Romanian counterpart Mihai-Razvan Ungureanu that his country is ready to render Romania support for integration into the European Union and offer it technical assistance on any matter regarding the European integration process.

Romania will play a fundamental role in the safety of southeast European side of EU, Josep Borrell says
Bucharest, March 1 /Rompres/ – European Parliament (EP) president Josep Borrell says that Romania will play a fundamental role in the safety of the southeast European side of the EU due to its geographical location and history.

President Basescu welcomes European Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn
Bucharest, February 28 /Rompres/ – President Traian Basescu on Monday welcomed visiting European Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn at the Cotroceni Presidential Palace to discuss Romania’s accession to the European Union.

In-depth assessment of European integration process bears out need for national solidarity, says president Traian Basescu
Bucharest, February 26 /Rompres/ – President Traian Basescu thinks necessary that the press stick together in a bid to spell out to the public at large the steps to be taken over the next period as part Romania’s EU integration process.
France says Romania’s accession to European Union is extremely important
Bucharest, February 25 /Rompres/ – France deems Romania’s accession to the European Union as an extremely important fact, as by geography, size and history Romania occupies a “neuralgic” point, France’s Foreign Minister Michel Barnier said on Friday, in Bucharest, after a meeting with Romanian Prime Minister Calin-Popescu Tariceanu.

Foreign Minister Mihai-Razvan Ungureanu visits Berlin
Bucharest, February 24 /MFA/ – On February 23-24, Foreign Minister Mihai-Razvan Ungureanu payed a visit to the Federal Republic of Germany, at the invitation of Federal Minister Joschka Fischer. The visit is part of the positive and dynamic relationship with Germany, aiming at consolidating the trust and predictibility capital already gathered at bilateral level.

NATO summit in Brussels conveys message of consolidation of Trans-Atlantic relations
Brussels, February 24 /Rompres/ – The NATO summit in Brussels, held on February 22, conveyed a good message, of consolidation of the Trans-Atlantic relations, Permanent Representative of Romania to NATO Ambassador Bogdan Mazuru told Rompres on Thursday.

Romania to provide the support and expertise necessary for Moldova’s EU integration
Bucharest, February 23 (Rompres) – Romania’s strategy as regards the Republic of Moldova is, on the medium-term, the country’s democratisation from a functional viewpoint and on the long-term its integration into the European Union, Foreign Minister Mihai-Razvan Ungureanu said on Wednesday, during a lecture he delivered at the National School of Political Studies and Administration (SNSPA), on the relations of Romania and Ukraine after the European Integration.

Foreign direct investment in Romania reaches 4.1 billion euros in 2004
Bucharest, February 23 /Rompres/ – Romania’s Central Bank (BNR) put the total foreign direct investments in Romania in 2004 at 4.1 billion euros, according to a release of the Romanian Agency for Foreign Investments (ARIS). Reporting a 141 percent increase, compared to 2003, and a 105 percent growth as against the initial objectives for 2004, Romania reduced the gap and entered a competition with East European countries, thought as favourite in attracting foreign investors, the ARIS release informs.

Europe will be neither complete nor free until Ukraine, Republic of Moldova and Southern Caucasus are anchored in the Euro-Atlantic community, President Basescu says
Brussels, February 22 /Rompres/ – Ukraine’s future is within the democratic community of the European nations and Europe will be neither complete nor free until Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova and Southern Caucasus are anchored in the Euro-Atlantic community, Romanian President Traian Basescu said on Tuesday, in Brussels, during the NATO-Ukraine Commission that held debates ahead of the meeting of the North Atlantic Council.

Romania and Bulgaria get favourable accession advice from European Commission
Strasbourg, February 22 /Rompres/ – Romania and Bulgaria got a favourable advice for integration into the European Union from the European Commission on Tuesday, following the successful wrap up of entry talks sealed by the European Council held on Dec. 17, 2004 in Brussels and the finalisation of the Accession Treaty in this February.

President Traian Basescu to attend NATO summit in Brussels
Bucharest, February 21 /Rompres/ – Romanian President Traian Basescu left on Monday for Brussels to attend the NATO summit meeting on Tuesday afternoon, occasioned by the European tour of U.S. President George W. Bush, aimed at restoring and consolidating trans-Atlantic ties.
Romanian Government approves Pre-accession Economic Programme
Bucharest, February 19 /Rompres/ – The Pre-accession Economic Programme (PEP) recently approved by the Romanian Government spells out in a unitary and correlated manner the economic policies the authorities seek to implement for the fulfilment of the economic criteria related to EU accession as well as for preparing the economy in view of the integration into the single European market.