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COUNTRY PROFILES


PROFILE

Country Profile

Area: 312,685 sq. km (120,728 sq. mi)
Population: 38.1m
Capital City: Warsaw (population: 1,618,500)
People: Polish 96.7%, German 1.3%, Ukrainian 0.6%, Byelorussian 0.5%
Languages: Polish
Religion(s): Roman Catholic (95%), Eastern Orthodox, Protestant, and Other (1.5%)
Currency: 1 zloty (PLN) = 100 groszys
Major political parties: Civic Platform (PO), Law & Justice (PiS), Polish Peasant Party (PSL), Democratic Left Alliance (SLD), Palikot Party (RP)
Government: Bicameral parliamentary democracy
President: Bronislaw Komorowski
Prime Minister: Donald Tusk
Foreign Minister: Radoslaw Sikorski
Membership of international groupings/ organisations: Australia Group, Bank for International Settlements (BIS), Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) (observer), Council of the Baltic Sea States (CBSS), CCC, Council of Europe (CE), Central European Initiative (CEI), European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC), European Bank of Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), European Union (EU), Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), International Finance Corporation (IFC), International Hydrographic Organization (IHO), International Labour Organisation (ILO), International Monetary Fund (IMF), International Maritime Organisation (IMO), Interpol, Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC), Non Aligned Movement (NAM) (guest), North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Organisation for Co-operation and Security in Europe (OSCE), Partnership for Peace (PfP), United Nations (UN), WCL, Western European Union (WEU) (associate), WFTU, World Health Organisation (WHO), World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), World Meteorological Organization (WMO), World Trade Organization (WTO), World Tourism Organization (WtoO), WtrO

STATE VISIT (6-8 NOVEMBER 2006)

Her Majesty The Queen received His Excellency President Lech Kaczynski of Poland and his wife Madame Maria Kaczynska on 7 November 2006.

STATE VISIT (5-7 MAY 2004)

Her Majesty The Queen received His Excellency President Aleksander Kwasniewski of Poland and his wife Madame Jolanta Kwasniewska on 5-7 May. The Visit took place fifteen years after the fall of Communism, nine years after President Kwasniewski's election, and just four days after Poland's long awaited accession to the EU.

STATE VISIT (23-26 APRIL 1991)

Her Majesty The Queen received His Excellency President Lech Walesa of Poland and his wife Madame Danuta Walesa on 23-26 April.

HM The Queen and HRH the Duke of Edinburgh visited Poland in 1996 and was received by His Excellency President Aleksander Kwasniewski of Poland and his wife Madame Jolanta Kwasniewska on 25 March.

General

Poland became the first of the central European countries to overthrow communist rule in 1989. It is the most populous state in central Europe. In 1989 it was on the verge of economic collapse, weighed down by massive foreign debt. Today, it is one of the fastest growing economies in Europe and a significant trading partner for the UK. On 13 December 2002 Poland completed negotiations to join the European Union. It signed an Accession Treaty in April 2003 and, following the public support shown in the referendum held on 8 June 2003, became a full member of the European Union on 1 May 2004. In the second half of 2011 Poland held its first ever Presidency of the EU Council. It became a member of NATO on 12 March 1999.

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ECONOMY

Basic Economic Facts

GDP: US$497.9bn (€376.1bn)
GDP per head: US$13,079 (€9,880)
Annual Growth: 3.8% (2010)
Inflation: 3.9% (December 2011)
Unemployment: 12.6% (December 2010)
Major Industries: Machine building, iron and steel, coal mining, chemicals, shipbuilding, food processing, glass, beverages, textiles
Major trading partners: Germany, Italy, Russia, Netherlands, France, Ukraine, UK
Leading British investors include: Tesco, BP, Shell, Pilkington, Glaxo SmithKline, CGNU, BOC Group, Cadbury's Schweppes, British Sugar, Cussons and Energis.
UK Exports: €8.7bn (2011)
UK Imports: €3.9bn (2011)
Poland emerged into the global market place over 20 years ago, transforming itself from a command economy into a free market economy, and has enjoyed uninterrupted growth since 1992. In 2004 - the year of accession to the EU - growth amounted to 5.4% and, after a slow down in 2005, picked up again in 2006 to 6.2% and reached 6.6% in 2007. In 2008 GDP grew by 5% and despite the global economic crisis in 2009 it stood at 1.7%, making Poland the only EU country to record positive growth in 2009. In 2010 growth reached 3.8%. Inflation has fallen from over 600% in 1990 to around 10% in 2000 and has been at single digits since. In December 2011 it stood at 3.9%.

In September 2008 PM Tusk announced Poland aimed to join the European Monetary Union in 2012 and would pursue an economic policy that would meet the Maastricht criteria in a sustainable manner in 2011. However, the deteriorating macroeconomic situation, instability in financial markets and the growing budget deficit (Poland is now under Excessive Deficit Procedure), has led to the Government delaying Euro adoption (no official target dates given – the government have suggested but 2015 as the earliest date). Adoption of the Euro would require changes to the Polish constitution. This process has already started.

After a significant decline in 2009 (-15.5%), trade started to go up in 2010: exports - €117,4bn (+19,5% compared to 2009); imports €131bn. Germany remains Poland’s biggest trading partner (over ¼ of exports). Britain is Poland’s third biggest trading partner and accounted for 6.3% of exports and 2.7% of imports in 2010.
Poland attracted between €7.5bn (NBP) to over €9bn (PAIiIZ) of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in 2010 compared to €9.8bn in 2009. 85% of FDI came from EU countries (mainly from France, Germany, Austria, Italy and Sweden) and 15% from the rest of the world (mainly from USA, South Korea and Japan). The main driver for FDI in Poland according to investors is still a well-qualified and relatively low cost labour force.

The unemployment rate has been slowly but steadily rising in Poland since October 2008 (8.8%). In December 2010 it stood at 12,6%. It is expected this may rise further before levelling-off. It is highly unlikely that it will reach the previous record level (over 20% in 2003). The major social concerns are that unemployment largely affects two groups (potential newcomers to the labour market and the elderly) and that there are considerable regional disparities.

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HISTORY

After World War I Poland regained its independence after over a hundred years of partition by Russia, Prussia and Austria. The democratic system established proved unsustainable and, after a coup in 1926, became increasingly authoritarian. The invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany in September 1939 precipitated the outbreak of the Second World War. Two weeks after the Nazi invasion, Soviet forces attacked and invaded Poland from the east and set up their own occupation according to the Molotov-Ribbentrop Non-Aggression Pact. The Nazis extended their brutal occupation further east after the outbreak of the Russo-German War in 1941. During the War a Government-in-Exile was formed in London, and an underground army and administration loyal to the exiled government functioned in occupied Poland. 600,000 Poles fought on the Allied side under British or Soviet Command. Polish cryptographers were the first to break the Enigma codes facilitating an early reading of German codes.

About 6 million Poles lost their lives during the war, including the vast majority of the country’s large Jewish population. Warsaw was levelled to the ground. The country was liberated from Nazism by the Red Army, but then in turn Soviet political and security forces succeeded in imposing their brand of totalitarianism. Poland became a communist state and member of the Warsaw Pact. Major revolts were staged in 1956, 1968, 1976 and 1980. It was only in 1989, after round-table talks between the communist authorities and the Solidarity opposition movement, that partially free elections took place. The collapse of communism quickly followed. Since 1990 Poland has been a democratic state and has built a free-market economy.
A chronology of key events

1918 - Independent Polish state created after the end of World War I.
1939 - (September) Nazi Germany and Soviet Union invade Poland.
1943 - Warsaw ghetto uprising.
1944 - Warsaw uprising.
1945 - Soviet forces capture Warsaw in January.
1956 - (June) Poznan rising. Stalinism abandoned in Poland.
1957 - (March) Student demonstrations suppressed.
1978 - Karol Wojtyla, Cardinal of Krakow, elected Pope.
1979 - The Pope visits Poland, giving a huge boost to opponents of communism.
1980 - Wave of strikes result in agreements allowing for the creation of the Solidarity Trade Union.
1981 - Martial law imposed.
1983 - Martial law lifted.
1989 - Round-table talks between Solidarity, the Communists and the Church. Partially democratic elections herald the collapse of the communist system
1990 - Solidarity leader Lech Walesa elected President of Poland.
1992 - Soviet troops start to leave.
1998 - The EU and Poland open talks on membership.
1999 - Poland joins Nato.
2002 - EU summit in Copenhagen formally invites Poland to join in 2004.
2003 - Poles vote in referendum in favour of joining EU.
2004 - (1 May) Poland joins the EU.
2010 - Polish President Lech Kaczynski, his wife and 96 senior Poles die in the presidential plane crash near Smolensk (Russia)
2011 - First Polish Presidency of the EU

Longer Historical Perspective

Poland adopted Christianity in 966. Poland reached the zenith of its power under the Jagiellonian dynasty after forming a union with Lithuania in 1386. At one stage the Polish-Lithuanian commonwealth stretched from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea. Its power declined during the 16th and 17th centuries, ending with the partition of Poland by Prussia, Russia, and Austria at the end of the 18th century. BBC News Country Timeline: Poland (http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/world/europe/country_profiles/newsid_1054000/1054681.stm)

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INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

Poland joined the EU on 1 May 2004. The public voted in favour of accession in the referendum held on 8 June with 77% of the vote on a turnout of 59% of the electorate. It was during the Prime Minister's visit to Poland in October 2000 that he suggested in a speech in the Polish Stock Exchange, that 2004 be the target date for Enlargement of the European Union.

Poland joined NATO on 12 March 1999 and plays an active part in UN affairs and peacekeeping missions. It has played a solid role in Kosovo and more recently in Afghanistan, and supported the invocation of Article V in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the US.

In Iraq, Poland continued to provide strong support to the Iraqi interim government from 2003 until October 2008, commanding the multinational division of the Central-South zone.

Poland aims to use its strong relations with its eastern neighbours to form a bridge between West and East, between the EU and Ukraine, Belarus and Russia. An example of this was Poland's joint proposal with Sweden in June 2008 to develop an EU 'Eastern Partnership' initiative, which would strengthen the relationship between the EU and eastern members of its Neighbourhood Policy. Another example of Poland's influence was during the ‘Orange Revolution’ in Ukraine, during which ex-President Kwasniewski played an important role in contributing to a final outcome that was both peaceful and democratic.

More generally, the Poles have strong interests in promoting economic growth, civil society and good government in the cross-border area. They see this as the best way to combat organised crime, notably human trafficking and smuggling, drugs and illegal immigration. The UK sponsors Polish NGOs to deliver assistance projects in these areas.

Poland's Relations with the UK

Bilateral relations are excellent.

An FCO-funded Action Plan helped Poland prepare for EU membership. Post-accession, the UK Government continued to assist the Polish Government in getting to grips with the impacts of economic re-structuring. The British Embassy in Warsaw was involved in 8 projects under the FCO's Global Opportunities Fund (GOF): Reuniting Europe scheme, which offered financial assistance with objectives of, for example, the "creation of a pro-business environment" and "building capacity in the Polish legal sector".

The Embassy also received funding from the successor to the Global Opportunities Fund, the Strategic Programmes Fund, for its work to promote a low carbon, high growth global economy. This included a Tactical Fund for projects run with external partners. The Embassy also continues to support the Polish Government in projects linked to internal reform through its Bilateral Projects budget. This includes projects in areas of commercial diplomacy, JHA, Science & Innovation, climate change, human rights, organised crime, visa and consular. For instance, it helped develop Poland's disability discrimination and funded training for Polish prosecutors on handling human trafficking cases.

Further details are available on request from the British Embassy in Warsaw.

In July 2005, the Foreign Secretary and the Polish Foreign Minister launched the Anglo-Polish Historical Committee report detailing the enormous contribution made by Polish intelligence agents to the Allied cause during World War II.

Our relations have become especially close in the defence field, with our troops serving together in Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan and in Iraq. Regular joint military training exercises are conducted.
President Kaczynski’s visit to the UK on 7 & 8 November 2006 represented another high in our bilateral relationship. His visit included meetings with Her Majesty The Queen and Prime Minister Tony Blair, as well as a visit to Edinburgh.

In March 2007, the UK and Poland agreed a ‘European Dialogue’, signed by then Foreign Secretaries Margaret Beckett and Anna Fotyga. It foresees at least 2 high-level (Ministerial or senior official) meetings per year. See below for a list of recent visits.

Cultural Relations with the UK

There is an active British Council in Warsaw, one of the largest British Council operations in the world. The main service is English-language teaching, and HM The Queen opened the teaching centre in 1996.

In the UK there are various cultural centres, catering for the large Polish community in the UK. They cover a wide range of interests. In London, one example is the Polish Cultural Institute, a non-profit organisation set up by the Polish Foreign Ministry.

Several regional learning centres around Poland. For more information visit http://www.britishcouncil.org/poland (http://www.britishcouncil.org/poland) .

In the UK there are various cultural centres, catering for the large Polish community in the UK. They cover a wide range of interests. In London, one example is the Polish Cultural Institute, a non-profit organisation set up by the Polish Foreign Ministry.

In 2009 and 2010 a Polska! Year events were held across the UK, presenting most interesting Polish cultural projects across the UK.

Recent Visits

Inward

-- Zbigniew Cwiakalski, Justice Minister - September 2008

-- Jaroslaw Duda, Minister for Disabled People - May 2010

Donald Tusk, MP, PM - April 2011

-- Jerzy Miller, Minister of Interior and Administration - June 2011

Outward

-- Gordon Brown, MP, PM - April 2009

-- HRH Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall - March 2010

-- John Mann MP, Chair of All-Party Parliamentary Group against Anti-Semitism - October 2010

-- John Bercow MP, Speaker of the House of Commons - October 2010

-- David Lidington MP, Minister for Europe - May & October 2010

-- Rt Hon William Hague MP, Foreign Secretary - June 2010

-- Jim Paice MP, Minister of State for Agriculture and Food - November 2010

-- Mark Hoban MP, Financial Secretary to the Treasury - December 2010

-- Ed Davey MP, Minister for Employment Relations, Consumer and Postal Affairs - February 2011

Lord Mayor - May 2011

-- Sir Andrew Burns, Special Envoy for post-Holocaust issues - March 2011

European Scrutiny Committee - June 2011

-- Nick Clegg, MP, DPM and David Lidington, MP, Minister for Europe - September 2011

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GEOGRAPHY

Covering an area of 312,685 sq km, Poland is the largest country in central Europe. It is bordered by Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania, the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad, and to the north the Baltic Sea. Poland is a mainly flat country: most lies at an altitude of less than 200 metres above sea level. However, the high Tatra and Carpathian mountain ranges in the south rise to a peak of 2,499 metres at Rysy on the Slovakian border. The fertile country - 47% of which is arable land - is traversed by large and slow moving rivers such as the Vistula and the Bug.

Poland has a temperate climate with seasonal variations between -15C in winter and 35C in the summer. Extremes of temperature are more pronounced in the mountains of the south and in the lake area in the north.

The population of Poland is approximately 38.6m. The capital Warsaw (population 1,706,624) is the financial and commercial centre. Other major cities in Poland are Krakow (756,336), Lodz (753,192), Wroclaw (635,280), Poznan (567,882) Gdansk, Bialystok, Poznan and Katowice (population data from 2007).

Natural resources include coal, sulphur, copper, natural gas, silver, amber, lead, salt and arable land.

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TRADE AND INVESTMENT

UK Development Assistance

The UK has offered development assistance to Poland through the Know How Fund, administered by the Department for International Development (DFID). The Know How Fund has disbursed over £100m on projects in Poland since 1989 and was wound up at the end of March 2003. A number of British pre-accession advisers have also been seconded to Poland under the EC funded institutional twinning scheme.

Trade and Investment with the UK

Bilateral trade and contacts between the UK and Poland are growing.

Since joining the EU, Poland has leapt from 25th largest UK export market to 15th. The value of UK exports to Poland soared from £1.4 billion in 2004 (when Poland joined the EU) to £3.8 billion in 2010. Britain's 2010 trade performance on the Polish market was exemplary - up 35% on 2009.

At the centre of Europe, Poland has the largest consumer market of the new EU member states and is a superb springboard for UK companies looking to expand to other Central & Eastern European countries, as well as emerging markets further East.

For more information, see: UK Trade & Investment Country Profile: Poland (http://www.uktradeinvest.gov.uk/ukti/poland)

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POLITICS

Recent Political Developments

Poland held parliamentary elections on 9 October 2011 (mid-way through the Presidency). After the election, on 8 November the President designated Donald Tusk as the new Prime Minister. The new government was sworn in on 18 November and approved by the Parliament. Tusk is the first PM in post-communist Poland that secured re-election.

Five parties passed the 5% threshold and won mandates. The ruling PO came first with 39% votes, ahead of main opposition PiS with 29.89%. The Left (SLD) got 8.24%, the current governing coalition junior partner Polish Peasant Party (PSL) got 8.36% and a new entrant, Palikot’s Party got 10.02% PO and PSL have majority in Parliament (235 seats out of 460) and re-instated governing coalition.The cabinet currently comprises:

Prime Minister and Head of Committee of European Integration: Donald Tusk (PO)
Economy Minister and DPM: Waldemar Pawlak (PSL)
Interior Minister: Jacek Cichocki (PO)
Administration and Digitalisation: Michal Boni (NP)
Regional Development Minister: Elzbieta Bienkowska (PO)
Justice Minister: Jaroslaw Gowin (PO)
Sports Minister: Joanna Mucha (PO)
Labour Minister: Wladyslaw Kosiniak-Kamysz (PSL)
Transport Minister: Slawomir Nowak (PO)
Treasury Minister: Mikolaj Budzanowski (PO)
Education Minister: Krystyna Szumilas (PO)
Defence Minister: Tomasz Siemoniak (PO)
Health Minister: Bartosz Arlukowicz (PO)
Science and Higher Education Minister: Barbara Kudrycka (PO)
Environment Minister: Marcin Korolec (NP)
Finance Minister: Jacek Rostowski (PO)
Agriculture Minister: Marek Sawicki (PSL)
Foreign Minister: Radoslaw Sikorski (PO)
Culture Minister: Bogdan Zdrojewski (PO)

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Last Updated: February 2012

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