Geographia Polonica (2014) vol. 87, iss. 3

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Poland and Eastern Europe in the European Union

Giuliano Bellezza

Geographia Polonica (2014) vol. 87, iss. 3, pp. 423-440


Pope John Paul II wrote that Poland is “a Republic peacefully including many Nations, many Cultures, manyReligions”. Somehow Norman Davies was more critical when he entitled his two volume history as God’splayground: A history of Poland. The Author of this paper feels rather uncertain about these descriptions. Certainly the neighbouring states have been very active in the ‘playground’, but the population has never been invited to play, and, lest we forget, look what happened to the Jewish inhabitants. Only in 1989, a long timeafter WW2, did East European states gain their full independence, and then their economic backwardness compared with Western Europe suddenly appeared in its full dimension. After years of diplomatic discussions, Poland and seven other East European states could officially join the European Union in 2004. This year was chosen for a first socio-economic comparison between the old and the new members of the EU. It was no surprise at all; the situation in the new members was by far the worst, even when compared with the less wealthy older ones. The second comparison relates to 2007 when the new members entered the Schengen Area, a compulsory clause for new members of the EU. Though remaining strong, differences were slowly decreasing. But a global crisis was beginning, and the crash officially came in September 2008 (with the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers). That’s why the 3rd comparison, relative to 2012, gives puzzling results. The economic crisis has, without a doubt, been truly global, and from 2007/2008 to 2012 the figures got worse everywhere. But the impression changes when comparing 2012 to 2004: generally speaking, GDP has gone up in the old members but has been completely nullified by inflation. Not so in the New Member States where people certainly have more money now than they did before accession. In the first years after accession many workers tried to move westbound, but now a good number are coming back. I have dedicated greater importance to Poland, for obvious reasons, and to Italy. These are two countries which are traditionally friendly, and the more so after the election of John Paul II. In conclusion, all in all, accession has been a good choice for the new members, but to progress further stronger cooperation is needed.

Keywords: Human Development Index (HDI), migration, Poland, Italy, European Union

Giuliano Bellezza, University of Roma La Sapienza and Tuscia (Viterbo) Piazzale Aldo Moro 5, 00185 Roma: Italy Professor Emeritus