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On the Road to Accession

In the article below, Polish student Jolanta Wierciszewska writing in 1999 discusses the issue of Poland’s accession to the EU and  takes an optimistic look into the future for Poland.  As you read the article note down the positive benefits which Jolanta feels will follow the accession. Do you think the same arguments are valid today? 

Poland is one of eight countries from the former Eastern European Communist Bloc that is preparing for accession to the EU. Although the integration process requires a lot of compromises and many western policies and practices will have to be adopted, most Polish citizens are prepared to go through those changes. The majority of Poles are looking forward to the accession, which is  frequently seen as a symbolic cut-off from Poland’s communist past. The accession means serious changes of lifestyle in Poland as well as the perception of Poles in the world, and especially in the West.  This means that Poland as a post-communist country will finally get rid of its inferiority complex. Throughout the decades the citizens of this country, squeezed between the political and economic powers of East and West, developed a sense of lesser importance and ability to coexist on the international arena. Poland’s accession to the EU is the process from which not only the country as a political unit will profit considerably, but also its individual citizens.

The positive changes from which Poland as a country will benefit include a common job market, free trade and tourist movement, new educational opportunities as well as the development of the Polish military forces. Since 1989 the Polish job market has suffered from rapidly growing privatization which in turn was one of the major causes of roaring unemployment. With the accession to the EU Polish employees will have the ability to work in other states of the Community, which will allow them to gain and develop their qualifications. What follows the free movement of labour is the free movement of tourists and the advantages connected with open borders. The idea of free trade and common economic policy requires effective laws that would prevent the practices of black market. With the introduction of the common European currency - the EURO - the stabilization of the economy is the crucial issue and it will definitely be one of the greatest advantages to Poland. As for Polish educational institutions and the Polish military, they too will benefit significantly from the accession. Thanks to subsidies they will be able to introduce a number of innovations that until recently have only been wishful thinking and the well-developed military forces will definitely allow Poles a more stable feeling of safety and security in their own country.

For the individual citizen membership in the EU is also a positive phenomenon. Although there have been voices condemning the welcoming approach towards the EU, the positives still outgrow the negatives in the common perception. Young people especially see EU accession as the chance for increased opportunities in the areas of employment, tourism and education. The free movement of labour within Europe will be most significant for those who are presently still at school. They will be the first ones who, thanks to their own hard work, will be given chances their parents could only dream about. They will also be able to travel freely around the world, or simply go for shopping to the neighbouring countries with the most convenient prices! Similarly, they will be able to choose from a variety of different European educational institutions.

Poland’s accession to the EU is commonly perceived as a positive phenomenon which, many Poles hope, will finally consign to the history books that sense of inferiority which some Poles have experienced. Given the same opportunities as its Western neighbours, Poland will finally have a chance to develop its potential. Polish citizens will finally be able to appear on the world’s scene as recognized specialists in many fields. They will be able to lead the lives of real Europeans!

Jolanta Wierciszewska

Questions for discussion

  1. How many positive benefits did you find? Can you add to the list? Do you share Jolanta’s positive view of the future or do you think she is over-optimistic?  Why? Why not?
  2. What do you believe will be the major advantages and disadvantages of accession? Try to discuss this outside the class e.g. with parents and other family members, with friends and colleagues and prepare a short presentation of your findings for the class. Do your findings correspond to Jolanta’s views that “..the advantages still outgrow the negatives in the common perception?”
  3. Can you account for Jolanta’s view that some Poles have experienced a sense of inferiority on the world stage? Do you agree with this view or do you think it has been over-stated? Why? Why not?

Essay writing: supporting your arguments

A good essay or presentation needs to be well-organised . It needs a clear introductory statement which should ‘set the scene’and a brief concluding statement which should summarise the main points made in the essay. In the main body of the essay each point that is made should be supported by an example or a piece of evidence to illustrate it.

Study Jolanta’s essay and identify her introductory and concluding statements.
Look closely at the essay to see how she has provided support for the points below:

  1. The majority of Poles are looking forward to the accession.
  2. Poland will benefit from a number of positive changes.
  3. Individual citizens regard EU membership as a positive phenomenon.

Now return to your own notes about the advantages and disadvantages of accession. For each point try to write a brief supporting statement for your views.

Organising your ideas

Work in a pair, or a small group if you prefer, and pool your ideas. You should be able to group them under the following two headings:

Advantages of EU accession:
i)  for individual Polish citizens
ii)  for Polish society as a whole

Disadvantages of EU accession:
i)  for individual Polish citizens
ii)  for Polish society as a whole

Writing up your ideas

Still working in your pairs or groups write a short essay (200 - 300 words) entitled: “The advantages and disadvantages of EU accession for Poland and Polish citizens” .

Remember to include a brief introductory statement and to conclude with a brief summarising statement. In the main body of the essay, each point that is made should be supported.

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