"Poland needs Europe - but Europe also needs Poland!"

- Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II


"Poland Comes Home" was formed six years ago, under the patronage of President Lech Walesa and President Ryszard Kaczorowski.

We operate within The Federation of Poles in Great Britain.

Our only aims were to promote Polish entry into NATO and the European Union.

With the first of these aims successfully achieved all energies are now concentrated on getting Poland into the family of European nations in 2004 on terms which are fair and equitable.

The Chairman of Poland Comes Home is Dr Jan Mokrzycki (General Secretary of the Federation of Poles in Great Britain).

The Campaign Director of Poland Comes Home is Cllr Mike Oborski (Honorary Consul of the Republic of Poland for the West Midlands).

 

POLAND COMES HOME

Campaigning in UK in support of Polish membership of EU...


Denis MacShane in Poland...

POLAND AND BRITAIN TOGETHER IN EUROPE
Academy of Economics, Poznan, Poland

12/03/03

Alas I am speaking in English today. My father was Polish, an officer who served in the 1939 campaign. He was wounded, escaped to Britain, but unfortunately died when I was young. My mother was Scottish, and learnt some Polish. She wanted me to learn too, but my father said 'who would need to speak Polish?' That was in the early 1950s. How history has changed!

I am delighted to be in Poznan. Two weeks ago, I spoke in Nottingham about the benefits of Britain's membership of the European Union, and the importance we attach to EU enlargement. I am very pleased to make the 'reverse fixture' in the Wielkopolskie region. For the region already has good links with Nottingham.

Poznan has long links with Britain. It gave refuge to people from Scotland escaping religious persecution in the 17th century. Poznan University has the longest established Department of English, still flourishing under Professor Fisiak. British and Commonwealth soldiers are buried at the Northern Cemetery. Just as we in Britain honour Polish airmen and solders, I am grateful that the Poznan authorities and Poznan Garrison celebrate the Remembrance Day each year by laying a wreath to commemorate the British and Allied soldiers.

EU ENLARGEMENT

In just over a month, the Polish Prime Minister will join his counterparts from the existing 15 Member States and 9 other accession states to sign in Athens a new Treaty of Accession to the European Union. This will lead to a family of nations united in the European Union that stretches from the Atlantic shores of Ireland to the eastern shores of the Baltic.

Politicians engaged in European affairs often speak of 'historic achievements'. But the signature of the new Accession Treaty will genuinely be a moment of the highest historic importance. And it is fitting that the treaty will be signed under the Parthenon, the cradle of the European demos. It should herald the beginning of a new era of security, solidarity and prosperity in Europe.

I felt at first hand the divisions that had kept them apart for over 40 years. I remember sending parcels of clothes to Poland in the 1950s. I remember being often on holiday as a schoolboy in Ireland in the 1960s when every second man had to emigrate so poor was the country. Because of EU membership, Ireland is rich and a country of immigration not emigration. They are proud present and future Members of the European Union.

Signature of the Treaty is not the final act in Poland's accession to the Union. Poland, like the other new members, must continue to make progress with its commitments. And the Commission will produce regular monitoring reports throughout the current year to track their implementation.

In addition, all 25 parties to the Treaty have to ratify it by 30 April 2004. For the current Member States, that process of ratification should pass smoothly. In the UK, the Government will introduce a Bill to Parliament shortly. We hope to ratify the Treaty by the end of the year. In the accession states themselves, referendum campaigns have now begun. The first one - in Malta - has just taken place. The 'yes' vote was a very positive signal. I hope all of you will actively persuade others to vote on 8 June so there is a positive answer in Poland's referendum.

I congratulate Poland on the terms it secured in the negotiations for joining the European Union. The deal allows Poland to be a net recipient of around €7 billion between accession and the end of 2006. Some of this depends on the rate at which Poland will be able to absorb the EU's regional development funds.

I have discussed the problem of absorption with members of your government. The rules are not easy. Even the UK does not use all the money on offer. It will take time to build up the capacity to manage and properly account for the funds. This is why your government secured concessions at Copenhagen to help with cash flow in the first years. It is also vital that all regions prepare to manage EU funds.

BENEFITS OF EU ENLARGEMENT

I strongly support the efforts of the Polish Government to explain the benefits of enlargement to the Polish people. Indeed it is why I am here today, at the request of Danuta Hόbner, my opposite number, whose reputation is high amongst my colleagues around the existing EU Member States and in Brussels.

The current generation of Spaniards, Portuguese and Irish can confirm how the EU has boosted their economies and created jobs. We can expect Poland to be the largest net recipient of EU funds from 2007. But the benefits are not simply of cash:

  • it will benefit consumers who will have access to a wider range of goods and services – all meeting EU health and safety standards;

  • it will allow new opportunities for Polish citizens to live, study and do business anywhere in the EU – and my government has decided that we will allow Polish citizens to have full right to work in Britain from the day of accession;

  • it will lead to a cleaner environment as EU standards and funds are allocated to help clean up old industrial areas.

I believe that Polish business will have a great deal to gain from enlargement. They will be part of a Single Market of 500 million consumers, bigger than the US and Japan combined. This will allow more trade, more prosperity and more jobs. After each previous enlargement, British exports increased to the new EU Member States: by 23% to Spain in 1986, by 23% to Sweden and by 31% to Finland in 1995. Imports rose almost as much. I expect and hope Poland will have the same experience.

British companies are already benefiting from the prospects of enlargement. For example, Tesco has opened 77 hypermarkets in Poland, Hungary and the Czech and Slovak republics including in Poznan. The Polish economy has much to offer with its young, dynamic workforce. And Tesco is now benefiting from an injection of new talent from Poland. It is launching 'buy Polish' product campaigns, benefiting local consumers and local producers.

I recognise that not all British companies are as forward looking as Tesco and Glaxo, who also have investments locally. Indeed, I am worried that we may be behind other existing EU Member States in taking the opportunities that Poland offers. But EU accession also means accession to the Single Market. And I believe it will improve the investment climate in Poland.

For Polish companies, the road to accession is already paying dividends. For example, long-term interest rates have fallen in recent months. The financial markets already see lending in Poland, and other Central European states, to be less risky than 6 months ago. This is a sign of the economic security that accession to the EU offers.

This economic security comes with a price. The transition process to get Poland into the EU has meant some difficult, and often painful, policy choices. I understand very well the anger of workers in some industries that are being forced to restructure. My own constituency is in Rotherham. 20 years ago, 12,000 were employed in the steel industry – today 1,000 work in the industry, but they are capable of producing more steel. The UK has one of the lowest rates of unemployment in Europe at 5.5%. Our experience is that restructuring does work and new jobs do come. It requires an educated and flexible workforce, macroeconomic stability and a predictable, investment friendly public administration.

The EU is more than simply a Single Market. It is a way of tackling common problems, overcoming differences and sharing ideas. The EU has seen two generations without war, on a continent that saw more bloodshed than any in the 20th century. Enlargement will expand the zone of peace and democracy.

The EU tackles other threats to security like organised crime, smuggling and terrorism that don't respect borders. The EU is now working to improve standards of criminal investigations across Europe. Enlargement will expand the areas where criminals and terrorists can be more easily pursued and brought to justice.

The EU is also bring greater security to the rest of the world. We don't yet speak with one voice. But by its Common Foreign and Security Policy, the EU can use its collective voice to promote peace and stability, for example in the Balkans, the Middle East Peace Process, and relations with Russia. We hope Poland will play a key part of this.

EU & IRAQ

I cannot deny that there are differences between Member States on Iraq. Possible military action is a grave and difficult issue. I welcome the serious debate within the EU. We all share the same objectives: on the need to disarm Saddam of WMD and ensure his full and immediate compliance with UN Security Council Resolutions. To date he has failed to comply with 17 previous resolutions. Saddam has a final opportunity to resolve the crisis peacefully through immediate and full compliance. If he does not take it, the Baghdad regime alone will be responsible for the consequences.

In dealing with Saddam, the EU must work hard to limit the differences with the United States. In the long term, we will all be worse off if we fail to maintain strong transatlantic links. The US shares underlying values with Europe in respect for the rule of law, democracy and respect for human rights. You know better than us the terrible injustices that are committed by totalitarian regimes. The majority of European nations share this view. I am most grateful to the Polish government for its stand.

Enlargement brings other new opportunities to the EU. It will have new Eastern neighbours. Poland has a key role to play in this work. We are already sharing our ideas. Our common aim is to promote the same political and economic reforms further east that you have successfully undertaken. We want to enhance trading relationships and allow them to follow sustainable development. This will help bring greater stability and prosperity beyond the new borders of the Union.

The European Union will change as a result of enlargement, the most countries ever to be admitted at one time. This is why we have set up the Convention. The Convention's chief task is to ensure the Union concentrates and delivers on the things that really matter to the citizens of Europe. A dynamic, growing economy that creates jobs. The common fight against crime. A clean and safe environment.

In doing this we must preserve those elements which stand at the heart of the EU's success – such as the institutional balance. Its unique, dynamic framework, with all its checks and balances, has allowed the EU to build a consensus on a vast range of issues from environmental protection to police co-operation while still respecting the sovereignty and equality of Member States. We will only maintain and strengthen that institutional balance if we strengthen all of the main European institutions: the Commission, the Council, the Parliament and the Court. I hope that the voices of Poland and the other new Member States will be heard more loudly on these issues – which will affect your citizens as much as ours.

ECONOMIC REFORM

The accession of Poland and the other new Member States will require more economic reform. Let me set out some of the problems:

  • There is too much unemployment in the EU25 – 18 million people unemployed, and more than a third out of work for over a year;

  • EU productivity is too low – if we matched US productivity and employment, our output would be 40% higher;

  • EU institutions have a tendency to think that more legislation and regulation is the solution;

  • the EU doesn't make entrepreneurship easy: it takes 12 times as long and costs 4 times as much to start a business in the EU as it does in the US. In Lisbon in March 2000 European leaders set themselves a new 10 year plan of action to make the EU the most competitive, knowledge based economy in the world, with more jobs and greater social cohesion. We've made some progress:

  • We've created 5 million jobs, a quarter of the 20m new jobs we aim to create by 2010;

  • prices have come down– telecoms liberalisation has helped slashed the cost of long distance calls across Europe by almost half compared to 1998;

  • we've increased workers' rights – there are now common standards for people with children to take time off work;

  • we've got more people on line using the latest internet technology – more Europeans are on line than Americans.

    That's not enough. European leaders need to keep up the pressure for reform at their annual Spring meetings in Brussels. I'm glad Prime Minister will attend.

    We need to create more jobs. The UK, with support from a number of our partners, has proposed the creation of a European task force – along the lines of the Hartz Commission in Germany – to provide a real boost to EU employment by identifying inflexibilities in our labour markets and suggesting solutions. Europe also needs to up its investment in knowledge and innovation to boost both employment and productivity.

    We need to have less bureaucracy. Businesses can't hire new workers, making it easier for people to get back into work, if they can't bear the cost of EU legislation. It should also cut down the amount of legislation it produces, using practical and workable alternatives to regulation where possible.

    We need to renew efforts to put real competition at the heart of the EU, focusing not only on integrating European markets but on driving forward competition in all of them for example by following up robustly on the agreement reached last year on energy liberalisation.

    Too often Member States have weakened the single market to protect national interests. It is vital that Poland sends out a clear signal that it is open to foreign investment. Poland should be open for business.

    We also need to reform the Common Agricultural Policy. We want a CAP to work for a Europe of 25. We want a CAP that supports sustainable farming, and helps farmers react to market disciplines to produce safe and high-quality food. It should support the needs of the wider rural economy, and help address environmental problems in the countryside. And it must adapt to meet our obligations to the rest of the world, on poverty reduction, on trade liberalisation, and on sustainable development. It is better to allow people to trade their way out of poverty than leave them in it.

    The Commission's reform proposals, which I hope will be agreed during the Greek Presidency, are a bold attempt to modernise the CAP and address some of these challenges.

    CONCLUSION

    EU accession is not a magic solution for Poland's problems. It requires hard work and a readiness to share responsibilities. Please come and help us strengthen this unique organisation. Welcome to Europe.

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