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Key Economic Data 
  2003 2002 2001 Ranking(2003)
Millions of US $ 209,563 187,670 176,300 24
GNI per capita
 US $ 5,270 4,570 4,230 71
Ranking is given out of 208 nations - (data from the World Bank)

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Update No: 109 - (29/06/06)

There is no doubt that Poland, the largest country in Central Europe, sets the tone for the region. The Czech Republic has just emulated it in voting for a right-wing conservative government.
The regime in Warsaw is in a class of its own for bigotry and spleen. It is characterized by anti-semitism, traditional to Poland, and homophobia, which owes something to its brand of Roman Catholicism, as well as Islamophobia and a free-wheeling xenophobia.

Europe condemns Poland for homophobia and human rights abuses
The European Parliament at Strasbourg in early June voted to condemn Poland and its government for homophobia. The condemnation came in a resolution regarding the increase in racist and homophobic violence in Europe which was offered by the Socialist group, the EuroParliament's second largest political formation.
The resolution passed by a vote of 301 in favour to 161 against, with 102 abstentions.
The condemnation specifically cited "the declarations by a leading member of the League of Polish Families inciting violence against GLBT people with a view to the march for tolerance and equality." The League, a notoriously homophobic and anti-Semitic party, is a member of the ultra-conservative ruling coalition government in Poland led by President Lech Kaczynski and his twin brother Jaroslav, who controls the Polish Parliament.
A vice-president of the League, Wojciech Wierzejski, a front-bencher in the Polish Parliament, had notably targeted the Warsaw Gay Pride March for Equality held June 10, saying, "If the deviants will start demonstrating, they need to be bashed with a thick club." 
An editorial in the June 11th New York Times, "Poland's Bigoted Government," condemned the country's "right-wing nationalist government that seems intent on violating the rights of minority groups, beginning with an attack on gays." The newspaper cited Wierzejski's declaration and actions by President Kaczynski's regime as evidence that the "government's actions give an official wink to bigotry."
The Euro Parliament's resolution also demanded that European Union representatives at the upcoming G8 summit meeting "raise the issue of human rights with Russia as a matter of urgency, in particular the right to demonstrate peacefully." This was a reference to the Moscow mayor's ban on the May 27th Gay Pride March in the Russian capital, which was violently broken up by police and fascists, with its organizers arrested.
The resolution included a list of recent homophobic, xenophobic, anti-Semitic, Islamophobic, and racist murders and violent attacks in Europe, saying the Parliament "condemns" all such attacks, and "expresses its solidarity with all victims of such attacks and their families."
Also mentioned in the resolution was "the attack against Michael Schudrich, chief rabbi of Poland, which took place in Warsaw." Schudrich was beaten in the street by a Polish nationalist yelling anti-Semitic slogans the day before Pope Benedict XVI visited the homeland of his predecessor, John Paul II, in May.
The Polish government has recently multiplied its homophobic actions, including the launch of a criminal probe of all Polish gay organizations and their financing at the demand of the League of Polish Families. Just ten days before the EuroParliament passed its resolution, Poland's minister of education, Roman Giertych-president of the League of Polish Families-fired the head of his ministry's department of teacher training, Miroslaw Sielatycki, for having published and distributed a Polish-language version of an official teacher training manual from the Council of Europe which contains a section on how to educate against homophobia and how to better understand the subject of homosexuality. The manual urged collaboration between schools and LGBT groups that could lead to representatives of those organizations speaking to student assemblies.
The largest Polish teachers union, the ZNP, defended Sielatycki and his distribution of the training manual as legitimate.
Following the firing of Sielatycki by Giertych, the secretary-general of the Council of Europe, Terry Davis, officially demanded an explanation from the Polish government, and expressed his regret that Poland and other member countries of the Council of Europe had done nothing to combat and eradicate homophobia within their borders.
In early June, the League of Polish Families' youth arm, the All-Polish Youth, filed a legal proceeding with the minister of justice against the Warsaw Pride-Equality March for "creating a danger for the inhabitants" of Warsaw. Giertych was the founder, and remains honorary president, of the All-Polish Youth, many of whose members are skinheads, and which is noted for its violent homophobia and its thuggish physical assaults on gay demonstrations and events.
The Pride-Equality March, Poland's largest ever, drew between 6,000 and 10,000 participants on June 10, including many from other European countries, among them more than 1,000 Germans, mostly from Berlin, and delegations from Sweden, France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, the UK, the Czech Republic, and Latvia.
Twenty members of the EuroParliament from various countries also joined the Pride-Equality March.
The Polish press last reported that another notoriously homophobic member of the Polish Parliament affiliated with the League of Polish Families, Krzysztof Bosak, led a group from the League's All-Polish Youth in taking photographs of the gay marchers and their supporters in the Warsaw Pride-Equality March. This is not the first time that the extreme right has taken hundreds of photographs of participants in gay and anti-fascist demonstrations, and some Polish media are asking whether there is a link between Bosak's photo-taking and the Web site Redwatch, which has published names, photos, and addresses of gay and left-wing activists and called for their murder.
Redwatch is a front group for the Polish branch of the neo-Nazi international Blood and Honour movement, and many members of the All-Polish Youth are also members of Blood and Honour. A young ecology activist was recently stabbed after his name and photo appeared on the Redwatch Web site.

Polish minister demands apology over EU report
Poland's deputy prime minister demanded an apology for the recent European Parliament resolution singling out Poland as a country where racism and homophobia are on the rise. Roman Giertych, who heads the right-wing League of Polish Families, called the report "slanderous" and insisted that the EU body was out of line. "I call on the parliament members to show one instance where the party leaders called for violence," Giertych told a news conference. 
The resolution, drafted by liberal groups and adopted on June 15th, had, as we have seen above, said acts of homophobia and anti-Semitism were on the rise in Poland and that leaders of the League "incite people to hatred and violence." 
Giertych's party promotes conservative Roman Catholic values and includes a youth wing that has attacked gay rights marches in Poland. Their recent entry into the government has raised concerns in Europe. Giertych, who is also education minister, argued that recent remarks of prominent party member Wojciech Wierzejski advocating violence against homosexuals had been misquoted by Polish newspapers and most likely sparked the resolution. 

Poland 'least ready for Euro'
It is not only in its political attitudes that Poland is out of date, but also in some of its entrenched economic structures and policies. The European Commission has released a report, which points to Poland as the least prepared EU newcomer to adopt the Union's common currency. 
The first tentative and unofficial date Poland quoted for its euro zone entry had been 2008. Then it had been pushed for one year longer, while current opinions speak of 2012 as the earliest feasible target. Why just opinions and not official statements? Polish Radio's Brussels correspondent Beata Plomecka says that is one of the reasons why the European Commission put Poland at the very bottom of the list of ten new EU members. 
"The Commission reckons it is mainly due to the fact Warsaw still hasn't made any political decision on the target date for the entry," she says. "Experts underline Poland hasn't created a national body in charge of the change over preparations and a national plan hasn't been adopted. Such a plan is needed to provide guidance to all sectors concerned, as well as to ensure a smooth change over. Only Poland doesn't know how long it will run the zloty together with the new euro. Also, the government in Warsaw hasn't prepared its national style of euro coins. All coins are the same in the euro zone, except their reverse. Here, individual countries prepare their own projects"' 
It is clearly visible from the character of the shortcomings that there is some kind of reluctance on Poland's part to work harder for the cause. Tomasz Teluk, head of the Centre For The New Europe in Brussels, considers the stand an outcome of certain calculations. 
"Some politicians, especially from the party in power (...Law and Justice...), think early Polish integration with the euro zone is not profitable for Poland," he says. "We can observe a lack of optimism among new EU members. The Baltic States - these countries are prepared to become euro zone members, but they don't want to do it immediately. I think the Polish government has similar strategy." 
Dr Tomasz Teluk explains the Polish fears could be connected with some negative experiences in introducing the common currency by older EU members. " Polish politicians judge that very fast integration could have negative influence on the Polish economy. Especially on rising prices for consumers, growing inflation or budget deficit." 
Slovenia is to be the first country from among the 10 EU newcomers, which is to switch to the euro. Slovenians will start paying bills and doing their shopping with the new currency already as of January next year. If the transition evokes positive opinions, maybe countries such as Poland will show more incentive in making an effort to enter the euro zone.

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Airports still experiencing a boom

In the first-quarter of 2006, the number of passengers at Polish airports totalled 2.7m, 34 per cent more than in the same period in 2005 and 83 per cent more than in the first-quarter of 2004. Warsaw Okecie may still be the market leader, but is losing its position. In the first-quarter of 2005, Okecie was used by 68 per cent of all passengers travelling through Poland and in the first-quarter of this year the figure dropped to 56 per cent. Regional airports such as Krakow or Wroclaw are becoming increasingly important due to the dynamic development of budget airlines, the website reported.
Adam Borkowski, the spokesperson for the Civil Aviation Office, forecasts: "In 2030, the number of passengers passing through Polish airports may exceed 63 million." However, he underlined that such a high level cannot be maintained without investment in the airport infrastructure.

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IMF expects higher growth 

Susan Schadler, the head of IMF's Polish mission, on May 22nd said the International Monetary Fund (IMF) raised its prediction for Poland's economic growth this year to 4.8 per cent. According to the Polish News Agency, PAP, the IMF, which had previously forecast a four per cent growth for the year 2006, also foresaw an increase of 4.5 per cent for the country in 2007. 
Schadler was quoted as saying that for the first time Poland was witnessing positive signs including a strong and balanced growth, low inflation and expanding employment. However, the IMF chief encouraged the Polish government to make further efforts to reduce its budget deficit to 26 billion zloty (US$8.5 billion) in year 2007, from 30 billion zloty (US$9.8 billion) planned for this year. Poland would also benefit from an "early" accession to the Eurozone, Schadler declared, without giving an exact date. She viewed the greatest challenge for the Polish economy in 2007 as the fiscal policy. She said: "Stabilisation of the public debt is exceptionally important for foreign investors." Even if the public sector deficit fell to 4.5 per cent of the GDP, the public debt would total 49 per cent of the GDP at the end of this year, she added. Schadler proposed a strong banking sector, strong banking supervision and an independent central bank as part of the important foundations of the Polish economy.

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Special trade zones attract more investors 

Polish special trade zones are attracting more and more foreign investors with tax relief and subsidies. "The year 2005 was a record year," Maciej Rapkiewicz, head of the special trade zone in Lodz, commented. Several new production sites have been set up since the grounds of an old factory in the Polish industrial city were turned into such a zone 10 years ago, Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa) reported. 
The biggest investor in 2005 came from Germany: mechanical engineer, Anton Haering, from Bubsheim in Swabian Alb invested around 500 million Euro and created 30 jobs, according to the zone's internet website. Poland's 14 special trading zones are of interest because of the tax relief offered. Companies located there can deduct up to 65 per cent of the sum invested from corporation tax. 
In addition to the tax advantages, wages are low. "Our Polish staff earn about one quarter of what we pay in Germany," Hendrik Kampann from Lingen in the state of Lower Saxony said. From June, he will be having radiators built in Lodz for the Polish market. The low costs are just one reason why increasingly more medium-sized enterprises along with large companies such as Bosch, Siemens or Electrolux are locating within the special trade zone. 
"Staff are the key factor," Miro Walde from the Polish-German Chamber of Industry and Commerce in Warsaw commented. Kampann is surprised by his new staff's "language proficiency, flexibility and motivation." Nearly every special trade zone has close contacts to universities and technical colleges. "We can rely on 100,000 students from all fields annually," Marciej Rapkiewicz said. The fact that the zones in Lodz are connected to motorways is even better. 
"From summer onwards, we can take the E 40 straight to Lingen from Lodz," Kampann commented. More than 110,000 jobs have been created in the special trade zones in the past 10 years, according to the Polish economics ministry. 
Such zones are often the only glimmer of hope for many regions in Poland, which has the EU's highest unemployment rate at 18 per cent. "The special trade zones saved us," said Zdislaw Klonowski, a city council representative in Mielec, Eastern Poland. 
In 1995, Poland's first special trade zone was founded on the grounds of a phased-out aircraft factory. Around 11,000 jobs have since been created there. Rapkiewsicz is confident that investors will venture further east sooner or later. Ukraine is also attracting investments with special trade zones. In Poland, tax relief will expire in 10 years.
"If costs increase, we will simply have to score with even better personnel," the head of the special trade zone in Lodz said. He is already planning university programmes catering especially to investors' needs.

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Poland's Telekom gets GSM Licence 

Poland's telecoms regulator has awarded some additional GSM 1800 spectrum to operators in the country, the website reported on May 16th.
Three frequency reservations were subject to tender, each including 33 channels. Each tenderer could submit one, two or three offers. The frequencies may be used over the entire country until December 31, 2020. Out of the offers submitted by Telekomunikacja Kolejowa (two offers), Telefonia Dialog (two offers) and PTK Centertel (one offer) only the offers from Telekomunikacja Kolejowa obtained the required minimum and positive evaluation of the Tender Jury. The entity selected by means of the tender procedure was Telekomunikacja Kolejowa, which offered 255 million Polish zloty for each block of 33 channels (that is the state budget would earn in total 510 million zloty). The minimum single tender fee for making the frequency reservation (for 33 channels) amounted to 1.32 million zloty. The remaining 33 channels for GSM 1800 should also be offered once more to market players. In the above regard, a detailed concept for their use would be subject to public consultation.

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