Poland. According to Countryaah website, national day of Poland is every November 11. Prime Minister Leszek Miller’s left government was put under intense pressure when the EU announced at the beginning of the year that new member states would receive agricultural subsidies only a quarter from the start and full support only after ten years. Agriculture Minister Jarosław Kalinowski of the Polish Farmer’s Party described the bid as second-class EU membership and threatened with customs duty on food imports from the EU. Every fifth pole supplies itself in the outdated and often unprofitable agriculture, which risks being eliminated by competition from EU modern agriculture where full support is paid. The leader of the EU hostile populist party Self-Defense, Andrzej Lepper, led angry farmers in the summer who demanded no to the EU. At the same time, trade unionists protested against unemployment, which rose to 17-18% in the spring.
Despite the government’s dilemma, the European Commission seemed steadfast. Poland’s entry into the Union could be delayed for almost a decade if it did not accept the EU’s bid, it was called. The final membership negotiations were dramatic, with Poland eventually fighting for better conditions and the EU threatening to bypass the country on enlargement. Agricultural aid was increased to 40%, but Poland did not say yes. At the last moment, a compromise was reached at the EU summit in Copenhagen in December, where Poland was given the right to use funds from the EU’s structural funds for agricultural support. In this way, Poland, together with nine other countries, could be invited to become members of the EU from 2004. However, the Polish membership will be subject to a referendum in the spring of 2003.
Poland was shaken during the year by a macabre scandal revealed in Lodz. Employees at a city hospital are suspected of having been paid by a funeral home to hand over accident victims or people who died at the hospital. The treatment is believed to have been ongoing for several years and in some cases severely ill patients must have been killed in order for the body to be sold.
Aging John Paul II made his ninth visit to Poland in August. In emotional meetings with a few million Poles, the pope, probably, said goodbye to the country where he, like Karol Wojtyla, grew up and lived for over half a century.
In the fall local elections, the two populist parties became Self-Defense and the Polish Family Federation wavy champion in many counties and municipalities. Lech Kaczyński, leader of the Law and Justice Party, won by a large majority the mayor election in Warsaw. He went to elections with the promise of combating crime and corruption, which has increased sharply during the economic transformation of the last decade.
The old East bloc country and the current NATO country Poland’s strained relationship with Russia improved during the year when President Vladimir Putin came on the first Russian presidential visit since 1993. Poles hoping for a Russian apology for the Soviet Union’s devastation in Poland were disappointed, however. Poland, which is heavily dependent on Russian gas and oil, hopes for sharply increased exports eastwards after several years of deficits in trade with Russia.
New stagnation and new rule
A slogan in the 60s was: “the little stabilization”, but soon more and more people started talking about stagnation. The economy suffered under the bureaucracy, the standard of living rose slowly, the supply of goods was inadequate, and the black stock exchange and all kinds of transactions besides the law were widespread. Demoralization had its roots in the war and during the period as occupied land. It was and has become a major societal problem. Productivity continued to be low, although the modernization of the economy in the second half of the 1960s continued.
A group within the party under the leadership of Security Chief General Mieczylslaw Moczar tried to play on nationalist and partly anti-Semitic strings. It took advantage of the fact that a number of Communist Party leaders both before the war and in the Stalin period were of Jewish descent, and Moczar tried to get support from the patriotic bourgeois circles who identified with the non-communist majority from the resistance movement. The conflict led to a tragic climax in the first half of 1968, when most of Poland’s 30,000 Jews left the country, following a so-called anti-Zionist purge in the state apparatus. The events of 1968 also became a culmination of the conflict between the regime and the intellectual elite that had developed during the 1960s. But Moczar’s course could not be further developed. In consequence, it had to in itsnationalism also aimed at the Soviet Union, which was now fully supported by Gomulka and his closest husband, Zenon Klisko. In 1970, West Germany recognized Poland’s western border – the Oder-Neus border – which paved the way for normalization between the two countries.
Rebellion, growth and renewed stagnation
In December 1970, the psychologically unfortunate price increases on meat and other foodstuffs triggered the turmoil that overturned the Gomulka cattle in just a few days immediately before Christmas. Edward Gierek took power in a situation where Poland was on the brink of civil war. He tried to open a dialogue with the workers and get them involved in a large-scale economic mobilization aimed at raising living standards and modernizing the stagnant Polish economy. For a while, the unions appeared more freely, but it soon became clear that the new leadership did not intend to implement real political reforms. Nevertheless, in the first instance, the intellectual opposition was passivated through smaller concessions, the relationship with the church improved, the peasants gained higher sales prices and, for the first time, gained access to social services.
Gierek initiated a strong expansion policy with annual growth of up to 10-12%, while real wages increased by approx. 40% under the five-year plan 1971-75. Special emphasis was placed on house construction, and major new projects such as the coal and oil port in Gdansk and the steel mill in Katowice were initiated. The automotive industry was strengthened and much effort was made to improve the old-fashioned and inadequate communication system. Experiments were conducted with economic reforms that gave companies greater autonomy and created a direct link between production and wages.
For the first 3-4 years, progress was convincing and the new regime was able to strengthen its base in the population, despite the fact that democratization was very limited in practice. The most important result was an administrative reform with decentralization to counties and municipalities. But around the mid-’70s, the difficulties surfaced. The economic downturn in the West had unfortunate consequences for Poland, which received more than half of its imports from the West. Foreign debt increased and the country began to feel the ever-increasing interest rates and repayments in foreign currency. Investments and imports ran smoothly, and an increasingly obvious shortage of goods arose. Prices of important food items were kept stable for political reasons, which cost billions in subsidies. After the December 1975 party congress, it became increasingly clear that a new crisis was imminent.
After spontaneous strikes and unrest, the increases were withdrawn, but Poland slipped into a political, economic and psychological crisis, which put a heavy strain on party leadership. Again, the regime met with resistance from the intelligentsia, the church and large sections of the working class. New plans were drawn up to limit investment, encourage farmers and private crafts.